Cover Image: Summerwater


Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This book transports the reader to a lakeside in Scotland and into the lives and minds of its cast of holidaymakers. It is shot through with a perceptive and subtle humour which I forced myself to slow down and savour. Engaging, thought-provoking and atmospheric throughout
Was this review helpful?
Firstly, thank you to Pan Macmillan and NetGalley for providing this review copy. This is my first Sarah Moss novel and I will defiantly be reading more by her. Summerwater follows twelve people who are all on holiday in Scotland. On a particular rainy day, the characters have little to do but watch each other and the comings and goings of the holiday park. Each character is wrapped up in their own cares unaware that tragedy is about to strike. I think I enjoyed the premise of this book more than the actual reading of it, however you do feel a sense of foreboding right from the beginning. It’s very short and sharp I feel like you get to spend a lot of time with the characters. Sarah Moss's writing is lovely, and I do plan on returning to this novel at a later date.
Was this review helpful?
Set in a Scottish holiday park, Moss creates an emotive and claustrophobic narrative. Unconnected families all observe each other with a sense of judgment and unease.
Moss' writing has a stream of consciousness and atmospheric prose, culminating in tragedy.
Was this review helpful?
Twenty-four hours in the Scottish countryside, twelve people are staying in holiday cabins beside an isolated loch. ‘Summerwater’ by Sarah Moss starts off with strangers concerned with the minutiae of their own lives and ends with a tragedy. 
This is beautifully written with sly humour coupled with sensory description of the place which puts you right there. The pace is slow and contemplative, taking time to plait together the observations by characters and the actual names, so carefully building together a picture of a temporary community. At first, they make assumptions and generalisations about each other. A retired couple sit and look out at the rain, reminiscing about the previous years they spent in this cabin. A young mother runs in all weathers and at all times of day, leaving her husband to look after the children. A teenager escapes the boredom of his bedroom by kayaking around the loch. The Romanian family, who party all night and don’t know how to behave, are the only ones seeming to have fun on holiday. They are also the only ones whose viewpoint we don’t hear, setting them apart from the rest. While at night a shadow stands in the woods, watching.
I never did get the identity of some characters straight in my head and the building of tension – the shadow in the woods – didn’t convince me. I didn’t feel it was necessary as I quickly became fascinated by the setting and the gradual interaction of characters. The constant rain acts as a claustrophobia device keeping everyone inside, feeling trapped, looking out and watching others, making judgements.
‘Summerwater’ is also darkly funny. Don’t miss the chuckle-out-loud scene when Milly and Josh are having sex but she’s thinking about a cup of tea and a bacon butty. The chapters about people are alternated with short sections about the natural world – a deer and fawn, the geology of the rocks, the origin of water flowing into the loch, bats, birds waiting for the rain to stop. These briefly pause the story – most are two paragraphs long – but add to the sense of place.
Most definitely not a page-turner in the thriller sense, ‘Summerwater’ ends abruptly. It is however thick with atmosphere. The rain, the wet vegetation, the finger-chilling cold, the sense of the holiday park, the loch and earth being much older than the visitors. It is a book about a day in which not a lot happens, showing how small things become big when you are bored, and how we are all inter-connected. 
Read more of my book reviews at
Was this review helpful?
Summerwater takes place over a single day in a Scottish holiday park. Each section follows a different person as they experience a very wet holiday with not very much to do. 

I do enjoy this kind of book that looks at the ordinary, everyday lives - nothing wildly exciting happening. I know this may appear odd, but there you are 🤷🏼‍♀️ Maybe it could be construed as voyeuristic, but ‘normal’ fascinates me, because one persons normal isn’t remotely like mine (or anyone else’s). There are people from all walks of life: the retired doctor and his wife who appears to have dementia; young parents with small children; older parents with teenaged children; a boyfriend and his girlfriend. I could go on, but I won’t. Needless to say, they’re all very different people. They do have some things in common: their distrust of outsiders. There is an ex-soldier camping and living rough in the woods, and a Ukrainian family who certainly seem to know how to have a party. No-one seems to particularly trust them or like their presence at the holiday park. 

I liked the smaller sections from the point of view of nature - whether it was from one of the animals in the woods, or the bedrock beneath the lodges. It made me think that all of the petty human concerns were nothing in comparison to the ground beneath their feet and that feeling of endurance. 

I’ve had more than a few holidays where I’ve been shut up in a tent, camper van or a holiday cottage because of bad weather, and this reminded me in some part of those holidays (minus the rather dramatic ending!). I think I liked this so much because basically, at the end of the day, I’m a bit of a curtain twitcher...

Many thanks to NetGalley and Picador/ Pan Macmillan for my copy of this book.
Was this review helpful?
Let’s just be real about this. I didn’t love it. I really wanted to. Something just didn’t gel for me. BOO! I’m upset!!🤦🏼‍♀️ Right...lets crack on...

The story is set on the longest day of the summer, where twelve people are cooped up with their families in a faded Scottish chalet park. Because for the rain, they basically spend their time people watching. Like we all would to be fair! 😂 Each person is wrapped in their own cares but increasingly aware of the other families around them. One particular family, a mother and daughter start to draw the attention of the others. So as tensions rise and bubble to the surface, all are unaware of the tragedy that lies ahead as night finally falls.

Moss can bloody write! 👌🏻 I liked how each chapter was from the point of view of the families staying at the Chalet. Great shout! I found some funny (the couple and the orgasms 🤣) and others intense 😬 What I appreciate about Moss is her ability to connect all these voices to the natural world, whether it’s the rain, the loch, the hills, the trees....It’s all weaved in beautifully and she somehow manages to connect all these voices yet expose their division and feeling of isolation. I would need 3G at least! 😅

What missed the mark for me was the ending. It just finished and I was like “oh..okay then...really?!”🤷🏼‍♀️ I wanted more and I didn’t get it. I know I ask a lot but there you go...*sigh*

Overall, it was okay. Great writing but the ending felt rushed. Nevermind, I know lots of people who have loved it and I would read more books by this author. What do I know anyway?! 😆
Was this review helpful?
There's an overwhelming sense of anxiety throughout this book that stems from the fact it moves quite slowly, switching from one entirely believable character to another as they go through the motions of their daily lives on a small holiday site in Scotland. 

The characters themselves are each very different, with their own voices and viewpoints. Every one of them was relatable and honest. 

It was an interesting way to tell a story... my only slight disappointment came with the ending. After such building of tension and mystery about what would happen to bring all the characters together, I felt it was slightly rushed, and would have liked to see some it it through the eyes of other characters. 

Overall though, an escape into a very well drawn place with enough of a hook to keep me reading to the end.
Was this review helpful?
Summerwater is set in a secluded Scottish holiday park, focusing on an array of different cabins and the characters within as they pass the time of a dreary, wet, Scottish summer. The kids are bored, the adults are restless, and everyone seems to be somewhat aware of the other holidaymakers around them. Summerwater spends only a short chapter with each set of characters before flitting to the next, eventually building to a catastrophic ending.

There is simultaneously so little and so much said in each chapter of Summerwater. This is only a short book, just over 200 pages, and yet so much is packed into it. Each chapter highlights a different family or couple staying in one of the holiday cottages. Starting on a rainy morning with a runner up the hills, to an elderly couple venturing into the nearest town, some children playing on the lakeshore, and a young, newly engaged couple trying to simultaneously orgasm, there’s not much plot to begin with. In fact, there’s not much plot at all. Sarah Moss’ language and tone with her writing is so enchanting, it really drew me in from the very first sentence, in a way which a lot of books that capture me that early fail to do. And I can’t quite explain the way in which I found myself mesermised by her writing, but it is absolutely stunning.

As we move through the day and skip across the park to new characters, the chapters are also interspersed with other points of views, for instance from the deer. It’s unclear what purpose these additions actually do to enhance the overall story that Moss is trying to tell, but they definitely enhanced my reading experience. Only half a page long, they don’t add to the plot, and seem an odd thing to squeeze into a book where so many points of view are at play and there are so many characters, but when it’s so sort – was it to add to page count? I don’t know, but I really loved those little moments away from the main story.

In terms of how many characters we met, however, twelve is definitely too many. With only a short time to get to know each of them, I did find myself getting confused and forgetting who some people were.

I honestly went into this book thinking it would be a five star rating purely based on the language and writing style of the first few pages. And this kept up until, still, not a lot had happened. And then I checked, and I was at 90%. I was so very nearly done, and the gripping climax that the blurb promised me hadn’t happened yet.

Which, yeah, meant that when you did come to the Big Thing… it didn’t feel rushed exactly. It felt unfinished, out of nowhere, a bit out of character with the rest of the book. And I actually didn’t fully comprehend what had happened until I came across a question a reader had asked on Goodreads which explained the significance of something that I had totally glossed over.

So the ending is why this novel is not a 5 star read for me.

HOWEVER, I don’t want me saying that to put you off. I’m sure it will appeal to some people, but while it didn’t to me, I still really loved most of this book, I can still see myself rereading it again at some point in the future, and I’m still really excited to read her other works. A mostly enjoyable read and I still really recommend it!
Was this review helpful?
Reading this over the course of a stormy few days in late August certainly added to the impact of Sarah Moss’s latest short novel, which takes over the course of a day in a very rainy Scottish holiday park. Each story offers a different character and stream of consciousness but I found them to be variously engaging - a runner in her 40s who runs for time out from her family but is also trying to ignore a serious issue, a retired doctor who resents his wife’s aging, a woman who fantasises about Don Draper to help her simultaneously orgasm with her boyfriend were some of my favourite stories. There’s an ominous sense of dread that bubbles under the surface, hinging on a Bulgarian family who play their music too loud. I didn’t enjoy this as much as other reviewers here and I found it hard to connect with the characters but it was an intriguing read nonetheless.
Was this review helpful?
Another amazing book from Sarah Moss. The story is tense and very atmospheric, the characters written in a viscerally realistic way, and the plot, although it's structure is unusual, flows very well. I enjoyed this very much and will be using it in our subscriptions a lot!
Was this review helpful?
A wonderfully constructed novel about the inhabitants of a Scottish holiday park over one rainy day in the summer holidays.
Sarah Moss is fantastic at capturing different narrative voices, teenagers and young people in particular, and the novel builds with an undefined sense of tension and fear to an unexpected and emotional climax.
Highly recommended.
Was this review helpful?
The sky is lying on the loch, filling the trees, heavy in the spaces between the pine needles, settling between blades of grass and mottling the pebbles on the beach. Although there’s no distance between cloud and land, nowhere for rain to fall, it is raining...[loc. 16]

Summerwater is told in twelve chapters, each from a different viewpoint. The chapters are interleaved with short passages about the natural world: the foxes in their den, ants in an anthill, the waters of the loch ...

'Told' may not be the right word. While there is a plot here, it isn't foregrounded. (This may be an elaborate way of my saying that I'm still not sure what actually happens.) Rather, it's a collection of experiences. Each of the narrators is on holiday, during a period of torrential rain, in one of the log cabins beside a Scottish loch. Each of them -- Justine who runs, Alex who risks drowning, Izzie who's afraid of the dark, Josh who can't wait to return to Barra -- has a unique voice, and they all share an exasperation (for some it's something stronger, contempt or loathing) for the people around them. Each feels trapped and finds a way of escape. And each is affected by the loud music that's played every night by a group of Ukrainians. Even the foxes and the ants are affected. But they don't verbalise their feelings about it.

There is also a Brexit element: one character mentally berates those who voted Leave: "how could the English be so stupid … how could they could not see the ring of yellow stars on every new road and hospital and upgraded railway and city centre regeneration of the last thirty years?" while another quizzes a Ukrainian child: "You’re supposed to have left, you know, people like you, did you not get the message?" Are these extremes, or just further examples of the judgmental, negative views of each narrator to pretty much every one of their fellow humans? Either way, I found myself uncomfortably identifying my own judgmental tics, and exasperated by (or contemptuous of, or full of loathing for) each character.

At least some of them appreciate the natural, if sodden, world around them.

The writing is beautiful and evocative, but I came away feeling that I'd missed something: and that 'something' eluded me again on rereading. Enough of a story is told to make it plain that people interact in complex and changing ways -- that when disaster threatens, people can be decent. But there's another story here, the story of Violetta, and I would have liked that to be more definite.

Was this review helpful?
Rainy, dark, nature, summer surroundings for intertwined stories that altogether make a disturbing whole. These are the stories of twelve residents of a small lakeside cottage holiday settlement that intermingle, correspond to each other and continue each other. A holiday “community” made of strangers that are uninterested in each other, unconnected and that have scarcely spoken to each other. Their connections are based on assumptions, listening in or peeking through curtains. But they do have one thing in common, and that is – hate, irritation or at least keeping an eye on Others.

The narration is delicate, gentle, detailed, filled with emotion. The narration seems as if it could be a first person stream of consciousness narration, but it is not, it is a third person narration that follows each of the characters. The inner life of every single character is lively and probable, it is impossible not to feel with each and every one of the very different characters. A fresh approach to narration that gives the whole novel an unusual feel. A feel of longing, melancholy, sadness that corresponds perfectly to the cold and rainy summer weather. Although every character in the novel is on holiday, nobody appears to wish to be there, they are confined, stuck in their misery and in their uneasiness. Nobody is happy here. (Or anywhere?)

“It’s pretty weird when you think about it, all these middle-class white people coming here to have less privacy, comfort and convenience than they do at home, how’s that a holiday?”

The characters are all strangely interconnected and will be further connected by the ending of the novel, but not only that, they are unknowingly and unconsciously connected to nature, to the Earth. And that is why there are chapters that belong to people and chapters that belong to nature. They are all here together, stuck together, but not by their own will. Just the same as people – badgers, ants, wolves, fawns are equal characters. All there together.

“The land under our feet, far under our feet, beneath our buildings, roads, pipes, subway systems, mines and even our fracking; under the valleys, the deepest lakes and the abysses of the ocean floor, is always shifting, forming, changing state. We write on the surface but the surface moves.”

People, unhappy, unsatisfied with their own petty lives, at a moment in time when they should be relaxing, be happy and content, they decide to channel their own anger towards the Others, the different ones, be they Romanian or Ukrainian or whatever else. It is always easier to be mad at someone else than ourselves.

The same way we have to take care of each other, we have to take care of nature, of what lies beneath and above us. Be conscious, be aware, be willing to see and help others. The belief that man  owns everything, his planet, the nature that surrounds him, his country. That he can decide other (lesser) people’s destinies.

As nature and our planet change so should we, we can’t stay as we were in the middle ages, in the 19th century or even the end of the 20th century, we have to evolve as humans. Be better, be more open minded, be more accepting of others. And instead, Brexit happens, people becoming worse than they once/ever were. Hatred. Fear. That is not the way to go, otherwise everything will end up in a meaningless fire. 

Why didn’t we get to hear any of the Ukraininans’ stories? Simply because they are not characters, they are sufferers. This whole insanity happens to them, they have to endure it. They have to be a part of it. Unwillingly. Their stories, their own voices, are a part of a different story altogether. A story in which they can decide something or anything on their own, a story in which they have at least some freedom and space.

Who was responsible for the fire? All of them? None in particular? Who set the fire? Becky, Lola who had something in her pocket? Becky’s father? Jack and Lola’s father? Or was it an accident. An accident of rage. Is it important at all who is to blame? Because all of them were, all of us are to blame.

What is the meaning of the leisurely engaged couple? The only ones that were positive about the foreigners just wanted to have fun? Without anything deeper in their minds. The positive are, unfortunately, just as shallow as the negative characters.

Fire is how it would and will always end, fire and catastrophe is where our own actions take us, our actions as humans (and currently – Brexit). They take us to chaos, insanity, a situation where it is impossible to tell who is to blame, who is going with the flow, who is a xenophobe, who is plainly insane. We are the ones to blame for what is going on at the moment – the destruction of people and nature.

A deep feeling of unhappiness, misery, hopelessness and anguish. Unfortunately, Sarah Moss sees nothing well for us in the future, for us as humans and for our planet. If there is to be a future at all, we should start changing right now. If it’s not too late already…

Thank you Netgalley for sending this over for honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Summerwater is the second novel I’ve read from Sarah Moss. Like Ghost Wall, Summerwater is a slow build up to a dramatic event.

Summerwater is set over the course of one rainy day at a Scottish holiday park. We meet 12 different people at different points in their lives. Each section follows one of the twelve people/family and it is like reading twelve short stories at times which made it a quick read. 

This book won’t be for everyone. Not much actually happens and it’s more of a character study with little continuous plot. Personally I preferred Ghost Wall as I felt no connection to the characters in this book as we still know so little about them all. Despite being a slow build I did find the ending a little rushed and weakest section of the book. 

I do recommend Summerwater as I think Sarah Moss’s writing is beautiful and I will continue to read more of her work.
Was this review helpful?
Summer Water was such a fascinating read. Sarah Moss is a gifted author. I love her writing style in this book.

It was an engrossing read about strangers stuck in a lodge on a rainy Scottish Midsummer day. The stories are short and crisp. The story is from the perspective of the occupants of the lodge on the same rainy day, hence the change of narrative style. Some may not find it interesting. For me it was evocative and intense.

The characters are appealing and the story atmospheric. I had so many feels.

Thank you NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for an e ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I was super excited to read this book - and I was not disappointed! It was evocative, atmospheric and truly engrossing (I read it in one sitting!) Sarah Moss captures human relationships, tension and intimacy wonderfully. It was a pleasure to read.
Was this review helpful?
This book is very nicely written. I really enjoyed the different perspectives and it flowed very well. I do think the ending was a little bit out of the blue but up to that point it was a very enjoyable read.
Was this review helpful?
I absolutely loved Sarah Moss's last novel, Ghost Wall, so I was actually thrilled to be approved to read Summerwater. And I was so happy that it lived up to my high expectations. Beautifully written and it felt like there wasn't a single extra word or word out of place. I loved the concept of writing from the point of view of various guests at the holiday camp, and the way Moss creates such an atmospheric setting is amazing. Loved, loved loved this one and I'm already looking forward to rereading it sometime.
Was this review helpful?
Sarah Moss has written another great novella, full of smart observations on life and human behaviour. The writing is succinct and full of sharp imagery, with a gradual building of tension. Somehow the reader knows that 'something' is going to happen and that it probably will not be a good outcome.

Set in the Scottish Highlands, the narrative takes place over a twenty-four hour period. Several families are all on holiday in the same holiday park, a remote, loch-side place that has seen far better days. The weather is foul, with torrential rain, grey skies and wind. The weather seems to be a reflection of the state of the holiday-makers' lives; we come to learn of their depression, angst, teenage difficulties, marital worries, health and financial issues, forgetfulness, gender issues, fear of outsiders and xenophobia.

One of the families are causing a problem for everyone. A group of party-loving eastern Europeans, referred to by all sorts of nationalities during the course of the story, have been having all-night parties and keeping the other residents awake. Tempers are fraying and hostility is rising towards people who should have already 'gone home to their own countries.' The situation is bringing out the worst in some people, children are parroting learned insults, whilst others are keeping themselves to themselves.

The narrative comes to a shocking conclusion when one of the residents takes his young daughter to the offending family's cabin, to talk sense into the occupants about the noise levels from a second night of partying. What happens next is shocking and horrifying and comes at the reader out of left field, even though the suspense has been gradually building. If anything, the conclusion happens too suddenly and ends too abruptly. I kept thinking that there must be another page or that I had missed some important detail completely. I still do not quite understand the ending and feel disappointed in it because, for me, it left too many loose ends and unanswered questions about characters I felt that I was only just beginning to get to know.

Having said that, the writing and format were superb and I enjoyed reading the book. It would make an interesting book club read.

Thanks to netGalley and to Pan Macmillan/Picador for allowing me to read an ARC of this book.
Was this review helpful?
After loving Ghost Wall in June, I was excited to read Sarah Moss’ latest novella, Summerwater. Set in a Scottish holiday park by a loch, it gives insights into the different people staying in the cabins – from children showing how cruel they can be and unhappy teenagers forced to stay inside without internet thanks to the endless rain, through to adults deeply consumed in a new relationship and a woman showing the first signs of dementia. Very little happens in the book, which is set over the course of just one day, until a dramatic event at the very end. But don’t let that put you off – this isn’t a book that needs plot. It is beautifully written in short, stream-of-consciousness-style chapters. Sarah Moss really gets relationships, domestic life and how people interact with their partners and family, which can, I think, be one of the hardest things to observe as a writer, given that so much of it happens behind closed doors. She is also particularly good on nature and its connection to us as humans and our bodies. There are so many ways of describing rain and the weather in Summerwater; one of my favourites has to be “the Scottish sky is better at obscenity than any human voice”. My favourite book of the month, I think!
Was this review helpful?