Summer on St Kilda – a wild, remote Scottish island.
Two strangers from drastically different worlds meet . . .
Wild-spirited Effie Gillies has lived all her life on the small island of St Kilda but when Lord Sholto, heir to the Earl of Dumfries, visits, the attraction between them is instant. For one glorious week she guides the handsome young visitor around the isle, falling in love for the first time – until a storm hits and her world falls apart.
Three months later, St Kilda falls silent as the islanders are evacuated for a better life on the mainland. With her friends and family scattered, Effie is surprised to be offered a position working on the Earl’s estate. Sholto is back in her life but their differences now seem insurmountable, even as the simmering tension between them grows. And when a shocking discovery is made back on St Kilda, all her dreams for this bright new life are threatened by the dark secrets Effie and her friends thought they had left behind.
Opposites attract in this epic and spellbinding novel, which transports us from the untamed beauty of St Kilda to the glamour and intrigues of high society in the 1930s. The Last Summer is the first book in The Wild Isle series by Sunday Times bestseller Karen Swan, inspired by the true history of St Kilda and its small island community.
'The most exciting, enchanting and evocative story of forbidden love I’ve ever read. I truly loved it and am waiting feverishly for the second instalment' - Cathy Bramley, author of The Summer That Changed Us
'Powerful writing and a wonderful premise make this a novel you’ll simultaneously want to savour and race through. I loved it and can’t wait for the next in the series!' - Jill Mansell, author of And Now You're Back
'A delicious romantic tale of wild 1930s Scotland . . . perfect for everyone dreaming of summer' - Rachel Hore, author of A Beautiful Spy
'Powerful writing and a wonderful premise make this a novel you’ll simultaneously want to savour and race through. I loved it' Jill Mansell
'The most exciting, enchanting and evocative story of forbidden love I’ve ever read' Cathy Bramley
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 32 members
I love Karen Swan and was really excited to read her new historical novel. It's a departure from her usual women's fiction/Christmas novels but just as fabulous!
Set in 1930, teenager Effie Gillies lives on the remote island of St Kilda, one of a dwindling population of only 36 people. It is a harsh life, with no amenities and a constant battle against the elements. Due to her elder brother's death and her father's growing frailty, Effie has become the family's main wage earner. She dresses like one of the men, hunts for their food and is one of the best climbers on the island. However, a daring stunt to win a race down the cliff-face against one of the island boys inadvertently impresses two important visitors to the island: the Earl of Dumfries and his twenty-three-year-old son Sholto. The Earl is obsessed with collecting rare bird's eggs and hires Effie to show him and Sholto the island, much to the annoyance of the other villagers. Having much in common (apart from from their class) Effie and Sholto soon become friends but will their friendship survive the islanders' evacuation to the mainland, where it soon becomes clear Sholto lives in a whole other world?
The Last Summer is a poignant story of first love. Effie and Sholto come from very different backgrounds but share a love of outdoor life and nature, particularly birds. When the islanders vote to be evacuated to mainland Scotland, it is a huge culture shock for Effie, who is used to the freedoms of island life and being treated like a man. She wears a too-big skirt held up by a bent nail, walks around barefoot and has never seen her reflection in a mirror. Now she is forced to conform and hide who she really is.
Running alongside Effie and Sholto's fledgling romance is a tale of murder and intrigue. While Effie manages to win over new friends and colleagues with her artless charm, she also makes dangerous enemies. What really happened on that last day on the island and will it come back to haunt her?
Meticulously researched, The Last Summer is one of those books that makes you believe you are actually there, from the wilds of St Kilda to a stately home in Scotland - Downton Abbey fans will love that part! The characters are brilliant and I particularly loved Effie. The only snag for me was that the book ended very abruptly, on a major cliff-hanger! Aargh!
However, The Last Summer is a five-star read and I have no hesitation in recommending it to Karen Swan's fans and anyone who loves historical fiction with a strong sense of place.
Thank you to Karen Swan and Pan for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.
I absolutely loved this story, I loved everything about it. It has a slightly different feel from Karen Swan's previous books but, in my opinion, she has taken her storytelling to another level. It is set around the real events of the St Kilda evacuation of 1930, something I only vaguely knew about, though I have since done some research. This set the scene for me and the author brought the way people lived on the island to life and I could really relate to their hardships and community.
I loved the characters, they are so well written and well-developed that I could really relate to them. Effie is a young St Kildan, who struggles every day to provide for her and her father, who cannot. She climbs the rocks to get eggs and birds for food and does it as well as any man on the remote island. She fights the prejudices of the men to do this and I admired her so much, I just loved her feisty nature. She is an expert ornithologist too and this and her determination is what will give her hope for the future.
Sholto is the son and heir of the Lord Dumfries’ who visits the isles to collect eggs for his collections. Sholto's attraction to Effie is undeniable but their backgrounds put a huge obstacle in the way. I like Sholto a lot. The story is full of wonderful characters and they all went towards creating a fabulous cast for this book.
I didn't realise when I started that this book would be part of a series, not something Karen Swan usually does, so I was devastated at the end that I was left in suspense! I even shouted out NO...to my husband's great amusement. I do hope I don't have to wait for too long for the next book in the series. I highly recommend this book, it has everything you could want from a really good book. In my opinion, Karen Swan has outdone herself with this story.
Wowser this is a great book!! I felt totally transported to St Kilda, an island I admittedly knew nothing about, and was blown away by the way life was lived on the isles as recently as the 1930s. Everything about this book was totally absorbing, even more so once Effie and her father ended up in Dumfries.
I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I genuinely loved every minute of reading this novel and seeing Effie adjust to life on the mainland. Highly highly recommend.
Oh my goodness, what a wonderful story! I was unaware of the history behind the story and although I looked it up after I read the book it just proved the the author’s research had been meticulously done.
I found the initial part of the book a little slow, however it soon picked up a pace and ended with a heart stopping twist in the tale…….I really can’t wait for the next book in the series…I have so many questions!!!
Altogether a beautifully written book, a little different to the other books I have read of her however I think it is her best yet
Thank you to Netgalley the author and publishers for an ARC in exchange for an honest review
I really enjoy Karen Swan's novels and this one was no different - although it is a move away from her more contemporary fiction and delves into historical fiction. I think it is a great move!
The characters were well-drawn, likeable (or not in the case of the Factor!) and I really wasn't sure which way the story was going to end. The novel covers the dwindling community of St Kilda in the Outer Hebrides and the last few months before they are evacuated to the mainland. Effie Gillies is 18 and a seasoned climber and bird expert. She has a very small family, just her and her elderly father, but her work on the ropes is key to ensuring that they never go without.
Her destiny is forever altered when Lord Sholto and his father comes to the island and she ends up being their tour guide. Their meeting sets in motion the second half of the novel, after Effie and her community have been evacuated and how she attempts to discover who she is away from all she has ever know on St Kilda.
I couldn't put this down and read late into the night under the covers to spare my poor husband the glare from my Kindle at 2am! I will look forward to more in this vein from Karen Swan. Many thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an unbiased review.