Review: The Last Summer of the Camperdowns

The Last Summer of the Camperdowns

The Last Summer of the Camperdowns
By Elizabeth Kelly
(Liveright Publishing Corporation, Hardcover, 9780871403407, June 2013, 383pp.)

The Short of It:

Money, greed, power and a young girl by the name of Riddle.

The Rest of It:

It’s 1972 and twelve-year-old Riddle James is not at all pleased over what the summer holds for her. Her father Godfrey, affectionately called Camp, is running for Congress and her mother Greer, a once famous actress, is the all too present figure in Riddle’s world of horses and fox hunts. With the pressure of running for office, Riddle’s father finds himself consumed with the process, and Riddle’s mother Greer spends her days being Greer. This includes open criticism of her daughter, Riddle and anyone she comes in contact with. What Riddle doesn’t  anticipate, is witnessing a murder. Cape Cod’s idyllic location is literally shattered by what she witnesses and her decision to keep it to herself is even more shocking.

Things get  really juicy when Michael Devlin, a friend of Camp’s dating back  to their time fighting in WW II, threatens to uncover a secret that could jeopardize Camp’s campaign for office. The situation is especially touchy because Devlin was once engaged to Greer, which has always caused animosity between the two men so when Devlin’s son goes missing, Camp is the first person Devlin suspects in his son’s disappearance.

This book is all parties, glitz and glamour with a lot of nastiness thrown in. At first, I despised this family and could not remember a more miserable bunch since the time I read Wuthering Heights. At the half way point though, they started to intrigue me. Riddle is a great character. At twelve, she’s somewhat innocent to what is going on around her but at the same time, she possesses an edge. Probably due to the fact that she spends all of her time surrounded by adults and not kids her own age.

I can’t say that this is your typical summer read. Many might pick it up for its Cape Cod setting, thinking it’s an easy breezy read. It is definitely not that. But if you like being around wealth and all the joys and problems associated with it, then you’ll enjoy the setting as there is plenty to sink your teeth into. But what you’ll enjoy most is Riddle. She’s charming, wise beyond her years yet untainted by the idiocy around her. And dare I say it? You might enjoy the numerous jabs that Kelly takes at high society in general. The names of these characters were almost too much for me at one point, Greer, Gula, Godfrey and Gin? But in the end, they fit.

If you want something a little different to end the summer with, this might be a good choice for you. It’s a lot more complex than I thought it would be, and who can resist a Cape Cod setting? No one.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

23 thoughts on “Review: The Last Summer of the Camperdowns”

  1. You beat me to it! I’m only halfway through reading The Last Summer of the Camperdowns, so I’ll come back and read your review more closely when I’m done. I really liked Apologize, Apologize, and I like this one too. Definitely not a breezy beach read!

  2. I had to return this one to the library without getting to read it. I am definitely putting it on hold again. It sounds intriguing – and not a normal beach read.

    1. I could not stand the family at first. I started it on audio and the voice of Greer set me teeth on edge and then their names! Hearing them over and over on audio, Godfrey! Gula! Greer! Gin! I switched to paper and was much happier.


  3. You’re right, if I ever pick this up it would be due to the setting. But now, what really intrigues me is … ‘not a breezy read’. Another impression I got from reading your review is, this sounds like a Franzen type of a book?

    1. Not as dysfunctional as Franzen’s stuff. Think about rich people and the problems they would have. They are over-the-top with themselves, mostly and the fact that the kid is so likable, even though she has two idiots for parents, makes for interesting reading. Actually, the dad was okay but you have to question his sanity over marrying Greer. She is a real piece of work.


    1. Her formal name in the book is Jimmy Hoffa. Her nick is Riddle. I prefer Riddle to Jimmy Hoffa. Who would name a kid that???


  4. I was totally surprised by this book, too. Riddle is one of my favorite characters I’ve encountered this year and I was really floored by what a master Elizabeth Kelly is at describing the people in her world and fitting them together. It seems like this one was a little overlooked, but I loved it.

    1. I’m not sure the title did it justice. It sounded a little corny to me. I only read it because of the setting and the fact that it was available at the library. I am glad I pushed through my hate of Greer to get to the end. That woman! She was definitely a piece of work.


  5. What a great line: “…could not remember a more miserable bunch since the time I read Wuthering Heights…” That right there turns me away from this book, but so true about WH – what a miserable bunch! LOL

    1. And I think I mentioned to someone in comments that I started off by listening to this on audio but the reader for Greer was just horrible!! She had this flighty, fake voice and the intonation was so strange in so many places, I had to pick up the print version. It was like Chinese water torture trying to listen to her!


  6. I was really looking forward to this and now even more so. I may have to move to the head of the line. Oh, and I have developed a HUGE doggie crush on Otter Pup and if he ever has a hankerin’ to visit the San Diego are I’d be more than happy to show him the sights. 😉

    1. And you wanna know what’s even better? Otter Pup is a girl! She is really named Chloe but we hardly call her that. She is a little Diva and has really fit so nicely into our family. Such a character. She is hard to photograph though because she always rushes at the camera but maybe I will get a recent video up.

    1. I felt the same way when I was reading everyone’s reviews but then it was sitting there at the library, looking at me. I’m glad I decided to read it.


    1. I have never visited Cape Cod in real life but I have visited it many times in books! Someday, I’ll see the real thing.


  7. This book sounds like a great mix of a summer novel and a tantalizing mystery in a great setting with a bunch of spoiled adult brats and one terrific kid. Your review made me laugh several times. I’m putting this one on my tbr list (with a referral to your review)!

    By the way, I’m halfway thru”‘After Her”, what do you think of it?

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