The story synopsis:
On her 30th birthday, Gwendolyn Reese receives an unexpected present from her widowed Aunt Bea: a grand tour of Europe in the company of Bea’s Sudoku and Mahjongg Club. The prospect isn’t entirely appealing. But when the gift she is expecting — an engagement ring from her boyfriend — doesn’t materialize, Gwen decides to go.
At first, Gwen approaches the trip as if it’s the math homework she assigns her students, diligently checking monuments off her must-see list. But amid the bougainvillea and beauty of southern Italy, something changes. Gwen begins to live in the moment — skipping down stone staircases in Capri, running her fingers over a glacier in view of the Matterhorn, racing through the Louvre and taste-testing pastries, wine and gelato. Reveling in every new experience — especially her attraction to a charismatic British physics professor — Gwen discovers that the ancient wonders around her are nothing compared to the renaissance unfolding within…
This isn’t a book the focuses only on the travel aspect of the story. The depth of the characters is what really keeps the reader hooked. Not only does the protagonist take a journey through Europe, but she also takes a journey reflecting on her own life. Being surrounded by the smart, inspiring and creative S&M (Sudoku and Mahjongg) Club, where everyone is over retirement age, Gwendolyn Reese is given several peices of wisdom throughout her travels. Emerson and Thoreau, two brothers who are Gwen’s age, bring a whole new mix to the group with their competitive antics and witty dialogue.
The word “renaissance”, as seen in the synopsis, is most fitting as it encompasses the breadth of settings in this book and the extensive knowledge the tour group members possess. The characters frequently discuss math, physics, literature, art, music, culture and the reader also gets a sweet dose of the differences between the characters’ languages including German and American English versus British English (yes there are differences and I know this to be true through personal experience).
“A Summer in Europe” is an intelligent novel infused with lyrical prose. I don’t know how it’s possible for an author to cover so much in one story and execute it so well. Brant glides from one country to another and from one topic to the next so smoothly that the reader is able to grasp all the places and topics explored.
The story is rich and full of details, it’s a book to be savored and re-read so you can get something new out of each reading experience.
Related post: check out Marilyn’s guest post about her time in Brussels here.
What books can you recommend that involve travel or a unique setting?