The Last September by Nina de Gramont
About this book: (from the publisher) Brett has been in love with Charlie ever since he took her skiing on a lovely Colorado night fourteen years ago. And now, living in a seaside cottage on Cape Cod with their young daughter, it looks as if they have settled into the life they desired. However, Brett and Charlie’s marriage has been tenuous for quite some time. When Charlie’s unstable younger brother plans to move in with them, the tension simmering under the surface of their marriage boils over.
But what happened to Charlie next was unfathomable. Charlie was the golden boy so charismatic that he charmed everyone who crossed his path; who never shied away from a challenge; who saw life as one big adventure; who could always rescue his troubled brother, no matter how unpredictable the situation.
So who is to blame for the tragic turn of events? And why does Brett feel responsible?
Set against the desolate autumn beauty of Cape Cod, The Last September is a riveting emotional puzzle that takes readers inside the psyche of a woman facing the meaning of love and loyalty.
About the author: (from the publisher) Nina de Gramont is the author of the acclaimed Meet Me at the River and Every Little Thing in the World as well as the story collection Of Cats and Men and the adult novel The Gossip of Starlings. Her work has appeared in Redbook, Harvard Review, Nerve, and Seventeen. Nina lives with her husband and daughter in coastal North Carolina. You can visit her at NinadeGramont.com.
If this book were a movie, I would rate it: PG-13+. Some profanity and mature themes.
Why this story matters to me: It reminds me that our choices always carry consequences, often reaching far beyond ourselves.
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My take: So clever, the way this story starts in the middle and then works its way out, before and after. Which heightens the suspense and makes for a gripping tale, from first page to last. Interestingly, the conclusion isn’t much of a shock, but it is satisfying. Which explains why this murder mystery is much more a suspense than an actual mystery. The whole process of climbing into Brett’s mind, the effort to understand her choices, fascinated me and kept me enthralled. Even if I never could completely comprehend her taste in men, and ultimately, the choices she made.
I would have appreciated a deeper exploration of Eli’s issue. It appears so suddenly. Is this how it typically presents? What about hereditary factors? Did its onset catch his family completely by surprise? And why was the dad so checked-out? I never got a clear sense for any of this, and I wanted more.
However–probably the reason I didn’t get more was because this isn’t Eli’s story–it’s Brett’s. And her story is masterfully told with seemingly effortless fluidity, vivid descriptions, and characters unlike any I’ve seen before. This novel is not just a suspense; it’s a literary suspense–my favorite kind, where as much care is given to the crafting of its prose as to the building of the plot. It is the work of a gifted storyteller. I’ve not read any of Nina de Gramont’s previous novels, but I’m inclined to do so now.
Not a happy story but an enthralling one, The Last September is the sort of story you’ll want to read all in one long, stormy autumn weekend.
Thanks to She Reads and Algonquin Books for Chapel Hill for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.
After words: What other books would you recommend, especially for fall reading?