Sunday, August 14, 2011

Summer in the South by Cathy Holton

Summer in the South
Author: Cathy Holton
Publisher: Ballantine
Published: May 24, 2011
Hardcover: 352 pages
Source: won from Kristin at Always With a Book

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from After a personal tragedy, Chicago writer Ava Dabrowski quits her job to spend the summer in Woodburn, Tennessee, at the invitation of her old college friend Will Fraser and his two great-aunts, Josephine and Fanny Woodburn. Her charming hosts offer Ava a chance to relax at their idyllic ancestral estate, Woodburn Hall, while working on her first novel. 
But Woodburn is anything but quiet: Ancient feuds lurk just beneath its placid surface, and modern-day rivalries emerge as Ava finds herself caught between the competing attentions of Will and his black-sheep cousin Jake. Fascinated by the family’s impressive history—their imposing house filled with treasures, and their mingling with literary lions Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Faulkner—Ava stumbles onto rumors about the darker side of the Woodburns’ legacy. Putting aside her planned novel, she turns her creative attentions to the eccentric and tragic clan, a family with more skeletons (and ghosts) in their closets than anyone could possibly imagine. As Ava struggles to write the true story of the Woodburns, she finds herself tangled in the tragic history of a mysterious Southern family whose secrets mirror her own.

My Thoughts: I am always drawn to books set in the South and the setting in this book is a perfect example why. The story unfolds in a little Southern town where everyone knows one another because the same families have lived there for centuries. The homes are old and filled with history and many stories. Summer in the South takes place in a sleepy little town in Tennessee. Ava decides to finally pursue her lifelong dream of writing a novel and takes up her old college friend's offer of coming to his family's estate to do so. As the story unfolds, Ava learns all about the Woodburns and the many secrets that have amongst themselves and also within the town.

I found this to be a really relaxing novel, easy to read and interesting to learn all about the Woodburn family. Some of their secrets go all the way to the Civil War and have been kept for decades. While their stories are interesting, I felt that the characters were a little dull. None of them really leapt off the page and grabbed my attention. I felt that Ava was too wishy-washy. She didn't seem to have much of a personality and I didn't think that she grew or learned anything as the novel progressed. I also thought that she hindered the real story, that of the Woodburn family. I could have read a novel just about them, but Ava seemed to get in the way with her relationships. I would definitely recommend this book if you like books set in the South, because the way that Cathy Holton describes this small town is sublime and a perfect way to wrap up your summer.


  1. I too like books set in the South, but tepid characters sort of drive me crazy, so I'm not sure this is one for me. Thanks for your honest thoughts :)

  2. Thanks for the introduction. I love Southern reads too. I'm not sure if I'm up for another love triangle though.