Invincible Summer by Alice Adams: A smart beach read

Cover imageComing towards the end of what felt like months of relentless electioneering, I was in need of a well turned out piece of escapism. Something I could lose myself in and forget about the world for a while. Invincible Summer looked just the ticket. It takes four friends who meet as undergraduates in 1997 and follows them up until the year they turn forty – a structure I find irresistible as you may have already noticed if you’re a regular visitor to this blog.

Adams’ novel opens with Eva, Benedict, Sylvie and Lucien lazing around on a sunny afternoon, sharing a bottle of wine. Benedict has a massive if quiet crush on Eva who lusts after Lucien who seems to be working his way through the female population of Bristol University much to his sister Sylvie’s disgust. Each of them follows a very different route after graduation. Benedict becomes a researcher in particle physics. Eva confounds her socialist father by working as a trader in the City. Sylvie takes a multitude of scuzzy jobs, working on her art in her few spare hours. Lucien continues his party-boy antics as a club promoter. Over the twenty years the novel spans, the bright shiny futures they’d assumed were before them become a little tarnished. Marriages are made and unmade, affairs are had, children are born, ambitions are achieved then unraveled but setbacks sometimes turn out to be the best thing that could have happened. The book ends, as it began, with the four friends together, more knocked about than they once were but content and happy in each other’s company.

There’s a touch of David Nicholls about Invincible Summer but with a little more of an edge and a few pleasingly sharp flashes of humour. Adams’ characters are nicely rounded – neither saints nor sinners, although Lucien might fall into the latter bracket for some. Adams knows how to spin a story, drawing her readers in, deftly handling the dynamics of friendship and steering neatly clear of any saccharine-sweet ending. It’s not a book that will set the literary world on fire but I enjoyed it very much: an involving, entertaining, thoroughly believable piece of much-needed escapism. One to pack in your bag if you’re off to the beach this year or in need of sticking your head in the metaphorical sand.

10 thoughts on “Invincible Summer by Alice Adams: A smart beach read”

  1. I love the idea of books being a way of sticking your head in the metaphorical sand! Sounds like a lovely bit of escapism and a great way of taking the mind of everything they’re talking about on the news.

  2. This really appeals as I’m the same age as the protagonists (I turned 40 this year) so I’m sure many details would hit home! I’ll definitely look out for it as an escapist summer read.

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