The Summer of the Bear
By Bella Pollen
(Atlantic Monthly Press, Hardcover, 9780802119742, 448pp.)
Publication Date: June 2011
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With her fifth novel, critically acclaimed writer and journalist Bella Pollen takes readers into the private dynamics of a family grappling with the loss of father and husband in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, where between elemental beauty and utter bleakness, strange forces are at play.
In 1980 Germany, under Cold War tension, a mole is suspected in the British Embassy. When the clever diplomat Nicky Fleming dies suddenly and suspiciously, it’s convenient to brand him the traitor. But was his death an accident, murder, or suicide? As the government digs into Nicky’s history, his wife, Letty, relocates with her three children to a remote Scottish island hoping to salvage their family. But the isolated shores of her childhood retreat only intensify their distance, and it is Letty’s brilliant and peculiar youngest child, Jamie, who alone holds on to the one thing he’s sure of: his father has promised to return and he was a man who never broke a promise.
Exploring the island, Jamie and his teenaged sisters discover that a domesticated brown bear has been marooned on shore, hiding somewhere among the seaside caves. Jamie feels that the bear may have a strange connection to his father, and as he seeks the truth, his father’s story surfaces unexpected ways. Bella Pollen has an uncanny ability to capture the unnoticeable moments in which families grow quiet. A novel about the corrosive effects of secrets and the extraordinary imagination of youth, The Summer of the Bear is Pollen’s most ambitious and affecting book yet.
Bella Pollen is a writer and journalist who has contributed to a wide variety of publications including Vogue, The Observer, and The Sunday Telegraph. She is the author of four other novels including Midnight Cactus and Hunting Unicorns, which was a Best Summer Read” on The Richard & Judy show.
Visit Bella's website at bellapollen.com
An O Magazine Summer Reading Pick
"Affecting . . . Riveting . . . A thrilling tale that unravels mysteries of the human heart, The Summer of the Bear is spine-tingling."People (4.5 stars)
There’s magic at the margins of The Summer of the Bear. . . . The novel has a bit of the style of Lemony Snicket and a smidgeon of The Secret of Roan Inish. Pollen’s writing is clean and clear enough that you can really smell the peat smoke and feel the wind.”Los Angeles Times
"What's real and what's imagined is at the heart of this gem of a novel, which is one part fairy tale, one part international thriller, and all-parts engrossing family drama. . . . Pollen's lyrical and often witty prose makes this a stirring tale of loss and self-discovery."More
"Pollen's vivid descriptions of nature have the power to transport even the most harried city-bound reader to a cool, secluded, distant island."O Magazine
"Pollen creates magic in The Summer of the Bear."Vanity Fair
Full of vivid detail . . . Pollen is an acute observer of people and places . . . a skilled dissector of the subtleties of sibling warfare.”The Washington Post
García Márquez meets le Carré meets A.A. Milne at times, with hints of William Golding at others . . . Moving, beautifully written . . . A sensitive and literate story told on several levels, all of them believable.”Kirkus (starred review)
Imaginative . . . A story with the spark of the unexpected . . . Readers will be captivated by Pollen’s characters and the warmth with which her magical tale unfolds.”Bookpage
A haunting, unsentimental look at estranged families and hidden secrets . . . Magically melancholy . . . Tender and wistful, Pollen doesn’t shy away from harsh truths, but at the heart of her story there’s an unquenchable belief in love and redemption.”Marie Claire (UK)
"Pollen delivers a potent narrative about a family gripped by grief."Chicago Post-Tribune
I devoured Bella Pollen’s The Summer of the Bear and found it to be the perfect escape.”Sadie Stein, The Paris Review
Part fairy tale, part suspense thriller, this magical book grips hold of you, almost creating the sensation of an out-of-body experienceone that’ll keep you holding your breath until the very last minute.”Easy Living (UK)
[A] show-stealing, fantastic portrayal of under-parented children.”Publishers Weekly
Pollen sensitively and intricately takes each family member through painful stages of grief and longing.”Booklist
A sweet, affecting, well-wrought tale of a family torn apart and then reunited . . . will charm most fiction readers.”Library Journal
Bewitching . . . A heartfelt novel.”Glamour (UK)
The plotting is lucid, the dialogue crisp, and the characterization first class. It is a pleasure to spend time in the company of such a relaxed, polished, storyteller.”Mail On Sunday
"The Summer of the Bear is a heartbreaking story about a family stranded on a Scottish island, shrouded in mystery."In Style
"A gently absorbing tale which smoothly splices poignant family drama with suspenseful Cold War thriller."Daily Mail
"Pollen is brilliant at portraying the bewilderment of the Fleming children. . . . This is a gentle, haunting tale that stayed with me long after I finished reading."Daily Express
"The story of Jamie and siblings is heartbreaking but interspersed with a knowing humour as Pollen captures the subtle witticisms of the islanders as they bend and twist the story of the bear until it takes on a sort of mythical status."Scotsman Magazine
"Part spy thriller and part ghost story, this book will keep you enthralled to the last page."The Sunday Post
"Engaging . . . The Cold War mystery steals the show."Veronique de Turenne, Barnes & Noble Review
"[An] unusual novel . . . [Pollen] excels in her portrait of East Berlin, a tense and paranoid regime of nefarious intent. Also evocative is her portrayal of the Outer Hebrides, always soft and gauzy with mist. The novel revels in the residue of dreams. . . . Touching and emotional."Curled Up With a Good Book (blog)