Tuesday, June 7, 2016

TLC Book Tours: Review of The Summer Guest by Alison Anderson + Giveaway!!

Publisher: Harper
Pub Date: May 24th, 2016
Pages: 400

Genre: Historical Fiction


What if Anton Chekhov, undisputed master of the short story, secretly wrote a novel—a manuscript hidden long ago that might have survived?

This tantalizing possibility drives The Summer Guest, a spellbinding story that draws together, across two centuries, the lives of three women through a moving, mysterious diary.

During the long, hot summer of 1888, an extraordinary friendship blossoms between Anton Chekhov and a young doctor named Zinaida Lintvaryova. Recently blinded by illness, Zinaida has retreated to her family’s estate in the lush countryside of eastern Ukraine, where she is keeping a diary to record her memories of her earlier life. But when the Chekhov family arrives to spend the summer at a dacha on the estate, and she meets the middle son, Anton Pavlovich, her quiet existence is transformed by the connection they share. What begins as a journal kept simply to pass the time becomes an intimate, introspective narrative of Zinaida’s singular relationship with this writer of growing fame.

More than a century later, in 2014, the publication of Zinaida’s diary represents Katya Kendall’s last chance to save her struggling London publishing house. Zinaida’s description of a gifted young man still coming to terms with his talent offers profound insight into a literary legend, but it also raises a tantalizing question: Did Chekhov, known only as a short-story writer and dramatist, write a novel that has since disappeared? The answer could change history, and finding the manuscript proves an irresistible challenge for Ana Harding, the translator Katya hires. Increasingly drawn into Zinaida and Chekhov’s world, Ana is consumed by her desire to find the “lost” book. As she delves deeper into the moving account of two lives changed by a meeting on a warm May night, she discovers that the manuscript is not the only mystery contained within the diary’s pages.

Inspired by the real-life friendship between Chekhov and the Lintvaryov family, The Summer Guest is a masterful and utterly compelling novel that breathes life into a vanished world while exploring the transformative power of art and the complexities of love and friendship.

What Did I Think About the Story?

I seem to be in this weird cycle of reading right now where the book I've read either makes it directly to the top ten of the year or it falls solidly into the "meh" category. There haven't been as many "I strongly like you" novels as usual, those that haven't necessarily made my favorites of all time list but that I did really like.  I don't remember the last time I've had this issue as most books I read seem to fall into that middle ground territory and I can't say I'm a big fan of reading books that I fine just okay when I have a feeling that many others might love them. Unfortunately for me, The Summer Guest by Alison Anderson is one such story, one that I am completely sure other historical fiction lovers like me will adore even while I found myself somewhat struggling to finish it.

From the book's synopsis I was expecting a historical mystery, a fast-paced hunt for an elusive historical gem - a novel written by one of the world's masters of the short story - in order to keep one of our modern character's publishing house open, all held together by clues given to our modern characters, and the readers, through the newly discovered diary of a woman who knew the writer at the cusp of his talent. What I found instead was a slow-burning, introspective look at three women's lives as they all struggle with finding satisfaction in the life they've ended up with and preparing for what the future could possibly hold, both good and bad. I had prepared myself for something that makes me feel like I have to keep turning the pages to find out what would happen next, but what I got instead was a story that had me pausing a lot, thinking about the lives of these three women (all of which are somewhat sad and isolated) and wondering when the real feeling of  mystery would come into play. There's also a heady bit of politics thrown in to both timelines, especially the modern one, which isn't an aspect I'm typically drawn to.

Now, none of this is to say that the story isn't well written. I particularly enjoyed the descriptive qualities of Zinaida's diary and "seeing" what it would be like to live as a blind person with a brilliant, active mind but being forced to now stand on the sidelines of life due to disability. Zinaida was a remarkable woman, a doctor raised to find pride and fulfillment in her own accomplishments and not a man or marriage, and getting to know her and see how her unique relationship with Chekov helped both of them in different ways (giving some enjoyment and meaning to her days that she had been lacking somewhat, and giving him the confidence and want to try his hands at writing a novel for pleasure and challenging himself instead of just writing what he always had to pay the bills) was really interesting. I wasn't as big a fan of Ana or Katya as characters but I did really like seeing behind the scenes of what it takes to be a translator and publisher and how to survive in either profession given the changing and fickle nature of literature and publishing. These aspects of the story kept me reading to the end even when I was disenchanted by the pacing. And don't let me trick you into thinking there isn't any mystery and revelation at the end, there is. For me I just wasn't invested enough in the story by the end to care about the revelation.

I legitimately hope this novel finds its ways into the hands of readers that will love it, as it seems is happening if the reviews I've read are any indication. I think it just wasn't a good fit for me and what I was expecting and wanting at this point in time. There is much to commend it, I just want to suggest that readers prepare for a slower, more introspective sort of read and less attention-grabbing mystery.


What Did I Think About the Cover?

It's okay.  It's got the illustrious house guest as well as the guest house so it definitely represents the story in that capacity. It doesn't really tell you anything else about the story or what to expect but I think it's a good cover nonetheless.

My Rating: 2.5/5.0

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with a free copy of The Summer Guest in exchange for an honest review! Be sure to continue below for information on the author, the book, the blog tour, and how you can enter to win a copy of your own!

Buy the Book

About the Author

ALISON ANDERSON, a native Californian, works as a literary translator in the Swiss Alps. Her The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Ingrid Betancourt’s memoir, and the work of JMG De Clezio. She has also written two previous novels and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literary Translation Fellowship, as well as fellowships at the prestigious MacDowell Colony and the Hawthornden Retreat for Writers.
many translations include the Europa edition of Muriel Barbery’s

Find out more about Alison at her website.

Giveaway Time!!

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to offer up one copy of The Summer Guest for giveaway (US only)! All you have to do is enter your name and email address on the giveaway form HERE. Please be sure to leave both your name and your email on the form so I can contact you if you are my winner (no email address, no entry!). For extra entries you can follow the blog in various ways (links are on the right hand sidebar) and leave the name/email you follow with on the form. That's it!

Please Note: When verifying the extra entries I've noticed that some people are saying they following me in certain ways that they, in fact, do not. I want to give extra entries to those that are actually taking the time to follow my blog, so please double check that you are in fact following me before saying you do. This verification is becoming a time consuming process so I will begin to remove all extra entries for those that I find are cheating.

I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on June 14th, 2016 and will announce the winner here as well as email the winner. I'll then send the winner's name and email address to the tour organizer so they can get the digital copy sent out. If you have already won this giveaway on another site please let me know so I can pick a new winner and give someone else a chance to win a copy of this great book.
Good Luck!!

The Summer Guest Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, May 24th: BookNAround
Wednesday, May 25th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, May 26th: A Bookish Way of Life
Friday, May 27th: Curling Up by the Fire
Monday, May 30th: Books on the Table
Wednesday, June 1st: Just One More Chapter
Thursday, June 2nd: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Monday, June 6th: Reading Reality
Tuesday, June 7th: A Literary Vacation
Wednesday, June 8th: #redhead.with.book
Wednesday, June 8th: Emerald City Book Review
Thursday, June 9th: Olduvai Reads
Monday, June 13th: A Book Geek
Monday, June 13th: Reading to Distraction
Wednesday, June 15th: Queen of All She Reads
Thursday, June 16th: Worth Getting in Bed For
Friday, June 17th: I’m Shelf-ish


  1. Although I really liked this book it's not an action-packed read and I can see how some readers would find it slow. I also was not so fond of some of the modern elements such as the political discussions - they felt thrown in and not fully integrated. But I loved Zinaida's diary and I'm interested in reading Chekhov now, so it was a success for me.

    1. That is awesome, Lori! I think most people are loving it and I'm so happy you did!

  2. Thanks for your honest review for the tour.

  3. Using a random number generator, the winner of a copy of The Summer Guest is....Carl S! Congratulations, Carl! I'm off to email you for your mailing address and you'll have 48 hours to respond. Thanks to those who entered!