Review: A Summer Without Rain by Christie Gordon

In 1920’s Ireland, Shannon understands all too well that the love and hunger he feels for his best friend, Ciaran, is forbidden.  He’s already shunned by his town and emotionally damaged from enduring painful confessions after a male teacher’s molestation at age fourteen.  But when he finds Ciaran grieving over the sudden death of his mother in a barn, a hasty and desperate embrace shatters an unspoken boundary between them.

Shannon and Ciaran are sent on a journey to Dublin to bring a family heirloom to Ciaran’s aunt.  Along the way, a drunken evening leads to an illicit act in a hotel room, confusing Ciaran and forcing them both down a treacherous path of deceit and desire.  Can love overcome the obstacles of Irish society, the Catholic Church, and political unrest?

Review by Erastes

First off, I don’t get the cover. I think it’s a bad mistake on the publisher’s part and may make many people veer off. It’s obviously aimed at the yaoi market, and if I had seen this in a store, I wouldn’t have touched it, because I’m not a fan of that genre. I’d have had no idea it was a historical, and certainly not one about 1920′s Ireland.

Similarly the book’s layout.  I was frankly baffled as to why the font  inside and outside was oriental. Very, very odd and clashed terribly with the geographical tone of the story. It jolted me every chapter, in fact, and I hadn’t realised how much a layout mattered to keeping the reader focussed.

One of the character’s names – Shannon – jolted me too. There’s no way any Roman Catholic boy in Ireland in the early part of the last century would have been called (or would have got away with having their son christened) Shannon.  Boys were (and still are) named after saints.  Shannon is an American name and came into fashion there in the 40′s by ex-patriot Irish who felt nostalgic for the homeland. Like Tara.

OK – so not off to a great start.  But I hoped that things would improve as we went on, but sadly they didn’t.

This isn’t Ireland in the 1920s. This is a mish mash of Hollywood and Tom Cruise land where every potato farmer has a gas stove (puh-leeze, most rural communities don’t have those NOW) a butcher’s block and a horse and cart. Typical Irish villages have drugstores.  Save me.  The research wobbles hugely, having potatoes “finished planting” in August.  er, no.  And Boxer Shorts? In the 1920′s?  Please, authors, if you are going to write gay fiction, the VERY LEAST you need to know is the history of men’s underpants.

I don’t generally advocate the use of films for research, but if the author had bothered to watch Ryan’s Daughter – or even The Quiet man – she’d get more a feel of the era than this.

Here’s a very small list of the things that were entirely wrong in about three pages.

1. en suite showers (perhaps, just, in a five star hotel in Dublin, not in a tatty hotel one day out of Dublin, even if they did charge six pounds a night.)
2. “shepard’s pie”
3. “Restrooms”
4 Waitresses and food in pubs
6. paying the tab
7. spigot
8. Buying a book by Oscar Wilde

The two young men take a private horse and trap (er – I thought they were poor) to Dublin, ( have NO idea why they didn’t take the train) -  stop at a drugstore and buy Dorian Gray which would never have been for sale in any shop let alone non existent drugstores. They stay in a hotel which costs six pounds (equivalent to at least £200 in today’s money and a ludicrous amount, not only for a hotel, but for POOR POTATO FARMERS to pay.

I’m afraid writing wise I wasn’t at all impressed. Adjectives peppered the text like raindrops, just about every noun had an adjective and that can be a little wearing. Unforgiveable editing errors such as “chicken’s clucked” “running a ginger hand down Ciaran’s side” and Every Single Mention of the word “reins” is spelled REIGNS.  Also abounding are clunky sentences like these, which read like bad translations from another language. ( you can see another instance of this in the blurb itself)

He ambled in silence with Ciaran behind him to the house.

and

That evening, he lay restless on his back in his bed.

All of which served to amuse and then gradually to irritate.

The characters are clearly girls, they cry, gasp, have curves and ansgt like a ravished nun at confession. It’s implied that Shannon is only gay because he was interfered with–a trope that I’m getting very sick of.

I won’t go on. In fact I am not going to continue with the review.  Perhaps someone might like it who likes the kind of fanfic where the boys are actually girls and have actual curves like Ciaran does, or someone who like overly angsty yaoi, but I found absolutely nothing to recommend it, and it’s probably the most insulting book for the time, the place, and the gay historical genre I’ve ever had the displeasure to read.

Author’s website
Buy from Extasy Books

7 Responses

  1. The name Shannon to me is definitely a girl’s name! But it sounds like a girl’s name would suit the character anyway.

    A “ginger hand” makes me giggle aargh, hairy, red hand!

    I know what you mean about the child abuse leading to him being gay trope. I just don’t like child abuse being used in a story at all if the only reason it’s there is for easy angst. If it’s treated seriously, has realistic consequences and has been properly researched, then fine, but not just to pile extra angst onto a character.

  2. A yaoi reader would probably love it, but having lived there, and knowing its history and the mind set of the Irish it was just too anachronistic to bear. I wish people would take into consideration that other countries are different to America, or simply write about their own towns and not mangle other countries into an homogenised version they imagine to be true.
    or stick to fantasy. Sorry, i know i sound angry and I do try to stay impartial, but this book crossed the line.

  3. Do you think it would have made more sense if they WERE two gingerbread people? :)

  4. I read an excerpt of this and avoided it as a result. It does seem to me in general that many writers don’t realise that Irish-American =/= Irish, just as American =/= English.

    Me, I’m never going to write anything set in the USA because I don’t believe, as a foreigner, that I could ever research enough to fool a native. But at least I know that, so if I tried I would be sure to run it past some American readers first.

    I thought the ginger hand sounded very nice – I like a red-headed man, even if he is a bit hairy. I was quite disappointed when I realised what she really meant.

  5. Also completely agree on the cover. Chopstick writing and bamboo leaves does not say “Ireland” to me.

  6. First off, thank you for reviewing my book, even though it wasn’t your cup of tea, so to speak. This is a Yaoi book, aimed at the Yaoi market. It is listed as such in my publisher’s catalogue. It’s what I write and it’s what I draw (I did draw the cover myself:) ). I’m an avid anime fan, weird as it may be. I’m also a very newbie author – it was the very first novel I’d ever written. Being as such, I didn’t agree with the font either! I was in such awe of being published, I was too afraid to ask for changes, LOL. But it was a bit hard for me to figure out the cover because I wanted it to somehow say “Ireland” and “Yaoi” at the same time. So I drew the two dudes anime-style and made it green, LOL. How Irish cliche is that?

    I knew it was going to be one hell of a challenge to write about a country I’ve never been to and a culture I only knew through independent Irish film (I’m a huge Cillian Murphy fan), but I hoped I could tackle it in a reasonable fashion. Contrary to what you might believe after reading the book (which I do appreciate), I did watch quite a few films – The Wind that Shakes the Barley, When Harry Became a Tree and a few others. You’d be surprised (or maybe not) to see how little information there is on Irish culture during that time period that doesn’t involve politics. Just trying to figure out if a gay Irish man during that time would call himself gay or queer was a major endeavor. It seems the internet is as bad as American news, it’s all about us. But I did find a list of Irish slang and kept it at my side at all times, though I had no idea of knowing if the slang would be used at that time, sadly.

    My friend has a son-in-law from Ireland and I did my best to question him to death when he was in town, but he didn’t like the subject matter much, so go figure. I must say, the historical fact of having boxers as underwear completely blew by me, all my friends, a college writing instructor and 20 or so students who all critiqued my work! So thank you, Erastes, for giving me a lesson in historical research. I must say I learned a hell of a lot from this review in terms of research. Sometimes, even things you’re sure are right, may not be right and should be looked into further. (And “ginger” has a whole new meaning to people in the British Isles:) ).

    However, one thing I want to make very clear, and maybe it wasn’t clear enough in the book – I did not intend for Shannon to be “made queer” by the molestation. The molestation, in my mind, was how he realized what his true feelings were for males.

    Anyhow, thanks again and maybe you can sleep better at night knowing that my next novel takes place in Northern California, in a town I actually lived in;)

    P.S. When do they plant those darned potatoes? I read August, but I supposed that’s only in the USA, too.

    Best Regards,

    Christie Gordon

  7. Chiming in late but here in Maine (second to Idaho in potato crops in the US) they plant potatoes in May and harvest them in September. I would imagine Ireland is on a similar cycle, but this is only a guess, I didn’t look it up.

    L

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