Book Review: The Summer We Ran Away by Jenny Oliver

The Summer We Ran Away

I’ve long been a Jenny Oliver fan – even before my name featured as a character in one of her books – so always keep my eyes peeled on NetGalley for her work – and saw this one, which comes out in June 2020.

Here’s the blurb:

“It was meant to be the party of the summer…

In Cedar Road, everyone is preparing for Lexi’s ‘White Hot’ summer party. For one night, parking squabbles and petitions are put aside as neighbours sip Prosecco under the fairy lights and gather by the hot tub to marvel at Lexi’s effortlessly glamorous life with Hot Hamish.

For Julia, it’s a chance to coax husband Charlie out of his potting shed and into a shirt so they can have a welcome break from the hellish house renovation they’ve been wrestling with. And it’s a chance for Julia to pretend – just for a night – that her life is as perfect as Lexi’s.

But when, during the party, one of Julia’s WhatsApp messages falls into the wrong hands and reveals her most intimate thoughts, things reach boiling point…
    
And when all the neighbours know exactly what you’re thinking, there’s only one thing to do.

Run away.

It’s going to be a summer Julia will never forget…”

The book starts on the evening of Lexi’s summer party.  Lexi is an ‘influencer’ and Julia’s neighbour – and Julia is desperate to be part of Lexi’s ‘in crowd’.  I initially felt a bit sorry for Julia – who was trying so hard to seek Lexi’s approval – when Lexi was clearly a complete cow.

(As an aside, I also wanted to buy Lexi a t-shirt from Paper Press Ireland that I recently got my teenage daughter which says ‘Being famous on Instagram is the same as being rich in Monopoly.  Calm Your Tits’.  Check out their slogan tees – they are EPIC.  Anyway – back to the book!)

The build up to the scene where Julia’s WhatsApp message is read by the wrong person is cringeworthy – you can just see where it’s going to go – real squeaky bum time!

And I actually much preferred the book after Julia had escaped from the party.

Her relationship with Amber (who I pictured as an Angelina Jolie-esque, don’t give a shit type person) develops really well, and the descriptions of France were brilliant and really evoked the feeling of being at an antiques market.

I also liked the fact that despite her disastrous time at the party – Julia is still desperate to know what has happened there by stalking social media – it really is an evil drug sometimes.

Using social media to stalk features later in the book too – and knowing who to stalk (sometimes not the actual person you’re bothered about – but someone close to them #skills) is great.

As well as Julia’s relationships with family and friends (I love the phonecalls with her parents – perfectly written), Amber’s relationships with her son and people from her past and present are also fundamental to the book.  Julia and Amber are incredibly different people. but it all segues together really nicely.

I enjoyed the ending and how lots of storylines were all tied together.  It also makes you think about priorities – especially at this weird time in the world.

As with all of Jenny Oliver’s books it was funny, warm, heartfelt and a lovely read.  I actually think this is my favourite so far (I suspect I say that every time?!)

I would definitely recommend you pre order it now so you get a nice surprise in June!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my ARC.