I was lucky enough to recieve a preview copy of this as part of a promotion on Twitter, and with me being the Colgan fan that I am, i thought Christmas had come early.
Jenny Colgan newest heart-warmer is about flying. Her protagonist is a pilot, from a family of pilots, and, classic Colgan, is living in the big city on the brink of a huge structural shift in her life, with a perfect boyfriend and literally the world as her oyster.
However, an illness in the family requires her to return briefly to her home in the north of Scotland, where she must island-hop a rickety plane called Dolly. A disaster forces her into the hands of a gruff, grumpy birdwatcher that would prefer the company of his angry chicken – Barbara – than any other human being. Hmm, I wonder how things will end up. Smiley face emoticon.
I don’t read Jenny’s books for the plot twists, tense, nail-biting drama and edge-of-my-seat thrills. I read them because a) they’re usually about why country life is better than city life, b) about Scotland, in some fashion or another, and c) because they are so deliciously cheesy. Predictable fluff that allows one to escape their own reality and enjoy the “fun” of the Colganverse.
Jenny has a tremendous habit of peppering her books with little references to pop culture – from Doctor Who through to the current hosts of Strictly, and “The Summer Skies” is no exception. My favourite example is a little aside about the difficulty of Wordle.
The Summer Skies strikes several chords with me. It’s about Scottish Islands – made up ones, for that matter – that I assume exist somewhere around the Orkneys, which are some of my favourite places in the world. One of the central characters is a birdwatcher, like myself. But, and this is the main point, hidden below its surface as a fuzzy summer read it touches upon mental distress, emotional damage and loss. I may not be able to identify with all these things, but when I can I do, and it hits me big. Jenny doesn’t write about perfect people – and if she does they’re usually the bad guys – and instead creates characters that are perfectly imperfect. Morag (the Grobag, as named at school) is such a relatable person – it’s her lack of sheen and Hollywoodness that makes her such a terrific heroine.
Of course theres a raft of lovely characters – and some not-so-lovely – including some excellent animal personalities. Barbara the chicken may not be the next Neil the Puffin (from Jenny’s wonderful Cornwall franchise, The Beach Street Bakery), but she’s still a good laugh. I won’t speak much of Frances – you’ll have to find out for yourself.
Of course I had no doubt over the outcome of the plot, but it’s how the plot weaves wonderfully through clichés using comedy and human dialogue that make you smile. And laugh.
Don’t be misled by the title though: we may be enjoying some of the best weather the UK has ever had, and “summer” evokes thoughts of sun, sea and sand. Most of this book takes place in a thunderstorm. Welcome to Scotland!