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Summer Crossing – Book Review

There’s nothing to change the spirit like a summer crossing. -From Summer Crossing, page 18-

In late 2004, Sotheby’s in New York contacted Alan Schwartz who is a trustee of The Truman Capote Literary Trust. A manuscript had been delivered to Sotheby’s for auction which appeared to be an early, unpublished novel by Truman Capote. The manuscript turned out to be Capote’s first novel (really a novella) drafted when he was only nineteen years old. Schwartz’ decision to publish this early work in 2005 has given readers the opportunity to enjoy a novel whose style and insight probably led to Capote’s penning of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Summer Crossing is a slim novel with surprising depth. Grady McNeil, a New York socialite, is spending a summer alone in the city. On the cusp of her eighteenth birthday, she is ripe for independence. Her budding relationship with a Jewish war veteran leads her down a path where the future is far from clear.

It was as if the world where they joined were a ship, one becalmed between two islands that were themselves: with any effort he could see the shore of her, but his was lost in the unlifting mist. -From Summer Crossing, page 40-

As a summer heat wave descends on New York City, the novel also heats up – leaving Grady with the consequences of her decisions.

Toward midafternoon, as the heat closed in like a hand over a murder victim’s mouth, the cit thrashed and twisted but, with its outcry muffled, its hurry hampered, its ambitions hindered, it was like a dry fountain, some useless monument, and so sank into a coma. -From Summer Crossing, page 96-

Capote’s deft literary style explores such themes as sexuality in the mid 1940s,  as well as cultural, socioeconomic, class and religious issues during that time period.  Filled with stunning insights into a young girl’s emotional development, the novel is a compelling read.  Capote uses symbolism artfully.

Somehow the leopard does not suffer; nor the panther: their swagger makes distinct claims upon the pulse, for not even the indignities of confinement can belittle the danger of their Asian eyes, those gold and ginger flowers blooming with a bristling courage in the dusk of captivity. -From Summer Crossing, page 44-

I breezed through this novel in less than a day, carried away by Capote’s fine sense of place, as well as his deep understanding of the characters. A fastidiously written first novel, Summer Crossing is well worth the read.

Highly recommended.

2 Comments

  1. Anonymous Anonymous
    July 21, 2007    

    Wow! I am crazy about Capote and didn’t know about this. Thanks for the review!

  2. Anonymous Anonymous
    July 22, 2007    

    You’re welcome! I thought it was an interesting story how this manuscript was “found.” Apparently Capote was living in an apartment in Brooklyn in the 1950s – he left the apartment, leaving all his stuff behind and told the superintendent to throw his things away. The guy found the manuscript…along with letters and photos…and saved them all these years. When he died, a relative found the manuscript and decided to try to sell it. Amazing! It’s a good book – one worth the read, especially if you love Capote.

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