Are you looking for a story full of a small town political intrigue, “old school” summer romance, with a dash of a murder mystery on top? Then look no further than That Summer by Allen Drury.
Allen Drury is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author known as a master of political thriller novels. He all but created the genre in the 60s when he was at the height of his career. That Summer is Drury’s one and only attempt at writing romance. The era when this was written, and Drury’s genre wheelhouse should be kept in the back of your mind while reading or listening to That Summer. There are several aspects of the book that have stood the test of time, but there are some elements that have not aged particularly well when looked at through the lense of today.
Allen’s mastery of the subtleties and beats of a good thriller are what drive this book, and drive it well. His mastery of his craft is what kept me going with this book and I can appreciate what an accomplished storyteller he was.
The pieces that tripped me up came into play around the romance plot, and the incredibly old school monotone feel of the town. Greenmont is the quintessential white bred Stepford town full of millionaires who all essentially look and think the same. (Trying really hard to find a politically correct way to say a town full of rich white people, but you guys get the gist.) The plot picks up when the machinations of the political elite start to take shape and have violent consequences for this sleepy little town.
The romance plot… oh the romance plot. Like I said earlier, if you keep in mind this was written in the 60s by a man who worked and wrote about drama in Washington DC… you can cut it some slack, but if you try to look at it in any sort of terms considered acceptable today… just take my advice and listen to the story without thinking too hard about it.
Bill Bird’s narration is very well suited to this story and I think he handles the topics and characterizations well. He has the voice I would expect from a book in this era. The interesting thing about this audiobook was it included a little five minute look into Drury and his career a la “60 Minuets” it gave some interesting background and context to the story and I had not seen something like that done before.