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Summerwater

Narrated by: Morven Christie
Length: 4 hrs and 27 mins
4.3 out of 5 stars (79 ratings)

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Summary

The Sunday Times top ten best seller.

From the acclaimed author of Ghost Wall, Summerwater is a devastating story told over 24 hours in the Scottish highlands and a searing exploration of our capacity for both kinship and cruelty in these divided times. 

On the longest day of the summer, 12 people sit cooped up with their families in a faded Scottish cabin park. The endless rain leaves them with little to do but watch the other residents.

A woman goes running up the Ben as if fleeing; a retired couple reminisces about neighbours long since moved on; a teenage boy braves the dark waters of the loch in his red kayak.  

Each person is wrapped in their own cares but increasingly alert to the makeshift community around them. One particular family, a mother and daughter without the right clothes or the right manners, starts to draw the attention of the others. Tensions rise and all watch on, unaware of the tragedy that lies ahead as night finally falls.

©2020 Sarah Moss (P)2020 Macmillan Publishers International Ltd

Critic reviews

"Sharp, searching, thoroughly imagined, utterly of the moment...it throws much contemporary writing into the shade." (Hilary Mantel)

"Nothing escapes her sly humour and brilliant touch. Deft and brimming with life, Summerwater is a novel of endless depth. A masterpiece." (Jessie Burton, author of The Miniaturist)

What listeners say about Summerwater

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Thoughts for our fractured times - brilliant

Because of its scenario of 12 disparate holidaymakers confined in five damp cabins in a rather grim Highland holiday park with its pressures on relationships and families on a day of relentless, biblical rain, Summerwater recalls Lockdown. In fact Moss wrote Summerwater before the pandemic and her trigger was divisive Brexit dissension within families and communities. But either way, these joyless, fractious holidays present a microcosm of present issues. A succession of internal thoughts cascade from the individual holidaymakers. Fitness fanatic Justine is out running in wet darkness before the children wake, blindly ignoring signs of her heart problems; retired doctor David is sickened by his country's vote whilst his confused wife Mary 'looking for the word of the thing' shows signs of early dementia; Milly with her doting fiance Josh is unlikely to go through with the marriage, 'simultaneously thinking of whether there's enough bread for sandwiches' whilst trying to achieve a simultaneous orgasm; 16 year-old Becky hates the incarceration, bickers with her parents and mutters 'I want to be dead'; teenage Alex takes his read kayak out on an increasingly threatening loch... And then there's the East European woman whose little girl Violetta ill-dressed in pink and white suffers young Lola's cruelty, and whose noisy parties ultimately produce savagery, Hints throughout, even the clouds 'the colour of bruises' (and Summerwater really does benefit from listening to twice) foreshadow the explosive ending. Lyrical interludes of descriptions of the natural world are freighted with foreboding: small creatures shelter in their burrows, but 'there will be death by morning'; badger cubs are threatened by cars. Ancient communities lie buried: a drowned city, bones of coracles, even shoes - and amulets which had long ago failed to ward off ill luck. These holidaymakers are all very different in age, relationships and culture, and all are intensely real and alive (and often funny), but they too are freighted with significance - and that's what makes Summerwater so rewarding. Get Listening - the Scottish narration is appropriately warm and intimate.

4 people found this helpful

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Deceptively simple portrait of now

Possibly my favourite read (or listen) this year, it shares the quiet insight of Robert Macfarlane and Ali Smith. It also proves that you don’t need a sprawling plot and hundreds of pages to create a beautiful, lyrical tale. Some of the inner monologues are embarrassingly familiar and some are very funny. At times there’s cruelty and bigotry too but each thumbnail sketch is entirely believable. If I’ve a criticism, it’s that I wasn’t so keen on the ending as there seemed to be a deliberate lack of information. However Morvern Christie did a great job of making the narration seem easy.

2 people found this helpful

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Total absorption!

This book has left me reeling from the sheer beauty of the words. The imagery was so clear I was reduced to tears. I am in awe of the structure surrounding these families as their lives centre around the holiday lake. I was acutely aware of the tools of writing were used to the very maximum, to bring this book to life. I was hooked from the very beginning, right up to the sensational ending. I studied Creative Writing ,and somehow felt a bond between my own tutors' wonderful teaching and the enviable results of this story. Many thanks, and look forward to another 'find' by this author.

1 person found this helpful

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Absolutely Brilliant

I loved this. Really liked the narrator too. Loved the setting, the mood, the message of this very of- the -moment book. I only couldn't award 5 stars as I wanted more! It was just too short .. I felt I was just getting started ... But in some ways this has also left me reflecting a lot. I guess the strange thing about audio is sometimes you don't realise the book is ending soon in the same way as with a physical book! I'd love to see this as a theatre adaptation. I think it would work so well in an Alan Bennet talking heads style!

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Perfect for a rainy weekend.

Great characters - each had their own chapter so you see the world from their points of view and also as they see each other. Moments of gripping drama, of amusement and of reflection and a cast of diverse characters - a great achievement in a short book. Perfectly narrated.

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Powerful

Another stunning novel from Moss. Series of interlinking stories set at a holiday park in Scotland, amidst intense weather and following the holiday residents across one day. She inhabits all of the protagonists incredibly well, all with their own unique perceptions. At the same time the novel moves forward almost like a thriller towards a powerful ending. Perfect read of the book by the narrator.

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A life from other people's perspective

Nice easy listen of people's lives from other people perspective. A little snippet on how they feel about their holiday and good old Scottish rain. As always brilliantly read by Morven Christie.