The Girls of Summer by Katie Bishop

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: June 6th, 2023

Series: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Drama, Adult, Adult Fiction

Trigger Warnings: Sexual Assualt (on-page, non-graphic), Rape (on and off page, non-graphic), Drug use (on-page, semi-graphic), Suicide (off and on page, remembered, semi-graphic), Abortion (off-page, remembered, non-graphic), Infidelity (on-page, semi-graphic)

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

“That place has been my whole life. Everything I thought I knew about myself was constructed in those few months I spent within touching distance of the sea. Everything I am is because Alistair loved me.”

Rachel has been in love with Alistair for fifteen years. Even though she’s now married to someone else. Even though she was a teenager when they met. Even though he is twenty years older than her.

Rachel and Alistair’s summer love affair on a remote, sun-trapped Greek island has consumed her since she was seventeen, obliterating everything in its wake. But as Rachel becomes increasingly obsessed with reliving the events of so long ago, she reconnects with the other girls who were similarly drawn to life on the island, where the nights were long, the alcohol was free-flowing and everyone acted in ways they never would at home. And as she does so, dark and deeply suppressed secrets about her first love affair begin to rise to the surface, as well as the truth about her time working for an enigmatic and wealthy man, who controlled so much more than she could have ever realized.

Joining a post #MeToo discourse, The Girls of Summer grapples with themes of power, sex, and consent, as it explores the complicated nature of memory and trauma––and what it takes to reframe, and reclaim, your own story.

First Line:

It’s too hot to be outside for long. Sweat is starting to dampen my scalp, thickening in the roots of my hair and pooling in the crevices of my collarbone.

The Girls of Summer by Katie Bishop

Rachel has always remembered her first love, Alistair. Having met him on a Greek island while on a summer holiday with her best friend, he took over her world. So much so that she decided to stay in Greece with him, working at a local bar and living with many other girls. But things aren’t what they seem on that island, and Rachel returns to England to pick up the pieces of her life. Fifteen years later, she is married and has returned to that Greek island with her husband to relive her past. But as Rachel reconnects with her former housemates and Alistair, she starts remembering things she suppressed. She also slowly realizes that her time in Greece wasn’t as carefree as she tells people. Can Rachel shake off her past? Will she do the right thing when asked? Or will she continue defending the man who consumed her during that Greek summer?

I was drawn to the cover when I got invited to review The Girls of Summer. The white-bleached building with a view of the ocean was stunning. Then I read the blurb and knew I needed to read this book. I had followed the #MeToo movement with interest and also kinship. Because I, too, experienced sexual harassment at a job and, when reported, was told to keep my mouth shut (FYI: I told that HR person to shove it where the sun didn’t shine and immediately quit. My mother didn’t raise someone who dealt with that crap.) I figured that this book would be something like that. What I read, instead, was something that made me angry for those girls and what was done to them.

There are trigger warnings in The Girls of Summer. They are:

  1. Sexual AssaultRachel is sexually assaulted by Harry, the wealthy man she works for. The sexual assault happens on a page (at his house) but is relatively nongraphic.
  2. Rape—Rachel is raped by an American in London (at a party thrown by Alistair at Harry’s London penthouse). Her rape is semi-graphic. Keira is raped off-page in Greece at a party in Harry’s house.
  3. Drug Use—There is recreational drug use displayed in The Girls of Summer. The girls and Rachel use pot and cocaine. Rachel and the girls are roofied while in Greece and London. They are raped while roofied. The drug use is semi-graphic.
  4. Suicide—Keira commits suicide in Greece. The actual act of her suicide is non-graphic, but the scene where Rachel and the girls find her body isn’t. Harry commits suicide towards the end of the book. That is nongraphic. Rachel is told by Helena when she visits her.
  5. Abortion—Rachel aborts Alistair’s child. The author doesn’t go into details, but Rachel suffers from guilt, regret, and sadness about the abortion throughout the book.
  6. InfidelityRachel cheats on her husband with Alistair throughout the “Now” parts of the book. As far as I know, her husband never finds out.

If any of these triggers you, I suggest not reading the book. I am not easily triggered and wish I had seen a trigger warning before reading.

The Girls of Summer is a medium to fast-paced book. The pacing of the book suited the storyline. There was some lag towards the end of the book. I didn’t mind it because it was the end of the book.

The Girls of Summer takes place on an unnamed island in Greece during the “Then” part of the book. The “Now” part of the book takes place in London. Both places (Greece and London) have been my personal places to visit bucket list. I have wanted to visit since forever.

The main storyline of The Girls of Summer is split into two parts, “Now” and “Then,” and both parts follow Rachel. The “Now” parts of the book follow Rachel and the downward spiral in her life. The “Then” parts of the book follow Rachel and what happened in Greece. Both parts of the book were well-written and could keep my attention. I will admit that I wasn’t initially a fan of the split storyline. But as I read the book and got to know the characters, it worked, and I liked it.

Rachel wasn’t the book’s most likable or reliable narrator. She was mean to her husband. Who leads their husband on when he wants to have a baby and thinks it’s a fertility issue (fun fact, it wasn’t)? And as soon as she got Alistair’s number, she was back in bed with him. Her husband didn’t deserve that. And when she got together with Helena, Priya, and Agnes to discuss what happened fifteen years ago? She was a colossal jerk. I have never wanted to smack an adult more than I wanted to hit Rachel in the “Now” section. Rachel, in the “Then” section, I liked her better. She was naive and thought the best of everyone. Rachel was also head over heels in love with Alistair (gag) and would do anything for him.

I wasn’t sure if I should count Alistair as a main character. But, seeing how his actions and lies influenced the Rachel of the future, I decided to include him. I hated him. He knew what was happening in Harry’s house. He helped procure the girls for him. He disgusted me, and I was stunned when he and Rachel hooked back up. I will say that he got what he deserved at the end of the book.

The secondary characters and storylines add extra depth to the main characters and storylines.

The drama angle of the book was well written. The author wrote it so well and kept it classy. It never descended into catfights. Instead, the author wrapped it in Rachel’s angst and let it fly.

The mystery angle of the book consumed me. While I knew what would happen (I guessed reasonably early in the book), it still surprised me. I was also kept on pins and needles, wondering when Rachel would get her head out of her butt and remember that things weren’t perfect in Greece.

The end of The Girls of Summer seemed rushed. The author was able to wrap everything up in a way that satisfied me as a reader. I still wasn’t a fan of Rachel, but I liked seeing where she was after the dust settled.

I recommend The Girls of Summer to anyone over 21. There is language, sexual situations, and violence. Also, see my trigger warnings list.

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, NetGalley, and Katie Bishop for allowing me to read and review The Girls of Summer. All opinions expressed in this review are mine.

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