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April 15, 2024

Summer Crossing: A Book Review

By Wendy Robards

Author: Truman Capote

Score: 9 out of 10

Summary: A young New York Socialite spends a summer alone in the city with disastrous consequences.

There's nothing to change the spirit like a summer crossing.( -From Summer Crossing, page 18-)

In late 2004, Sotheby's in New York contacted Alan Schwartz who is a trustee of The Truman Capote Literary Trust. A manuscript had been delivered to Sotheby's for auction which appeared to be an early, unpublished novel by Truman Capote. The manuscript turned out to be Capote's first novel (really a novella) drafted when he was only nineteen years old. Schwartz' decision to publish this early work in 2005 has given readers the opportunity to enjoy a novel whose style and insight probably led to Capote's penning of Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Summer Crossing is a slim novel with surprising depth. Grady McNeil, a New York socialite, is spending a summer alone in the city. On the cusp of her eighteenth birthday, she is ripe for independence. Her budding relationship with a Jewish war veteran leads her down a path where the future is far from clear.

It was as if the world where they joined were a ship, one becalmed between two islands that were themselves: with any effort he could see th shore of her, but his was lost in the unlifting mist.( -From Summer Crossing, page 40-)

As a summer heat wave descends on New York City, the novel also heats up -- leaving Grady with the consequences of her decisions.

Toward midafternoon, as the heat closed in like a hand over a murder victim's mouth, the cit thrashed and twisted but, with its outcry muffled, its hurry hampered, its ambitions hindered, it was like a dry fountain, some useless monument, and so sank into a coma. (-From Summer Crossing, page 96-)

Capote's deft literary style explores such themes as sexuality in the mid 1940s, as well as cultural, socioeconomic, class and religious issues during that time period. Filled with stunning insights into a young girl's emotional development, the novel is a compelling read. Capote uses symbolism artfully.

Somehow the leopard does not suffer; nor the panther: their swagger makes distinct claims upon the pulse, for not even the indignities of confinement can belittle the danger of their Asian eyes, those gold and ginger flowers blooming with a bristling courage in the dusk of captivity. (-From Summer Crossing, page 44-)

I breezed through this novel in less than a day, carried away by Capote's fine sense of place, as well as his deep understanding of the characters. A fastidiously written first novel, Summer Crossing is well worth the read.

Highly recommended.

Article © Wendy Robards. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-08-13
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