Review: Summer Crossing by Truman Capote

‘Summer Crossing’ is the story of a 17-year-old girl who has been left in New York while her parents spend the summer in Europe. It is a coming-of-age story, the heroine of which is very much a proto-Holly Golightly from ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’.

I was really looking forwards to reading this novella, since I have an enduring adoration of Truman Capote and will not rest until I have read all of his work. I unfortunately found this to be the most disappointing of his novels so far, but this is likely due to the fact that he lost it and never actually finished writing or editing it himself. He was having difficulties in writing it, and moved on to bigger and better things, namely Other Voices, Other RoomsAs for Grady being a proto-Holly, I’m not so sure about that.

Nobody was very likeable in this, which is pretty much the standard for Capote’s writing. I found myself hating one character, before swinging around to hate the other more. He had a great talent for characterisation, making even the smallest dunce of a character seem perfectly drawn. Grady is definitely not my favourite sketch though, and I found her annoying. She was the sort of character I wanted to slap and make her see sense! This is basically “Uptown Girl”, but the girl is kind of a naive sociopath with a rebellious streak, and way more money than sense.

I did thoroughly enjoy the very Capote-ish best friend, Peter. He’s flambouyant as all hell, and very, very sassy. The whole “romance” set up between Peter and Grady by others in the book seemed laughable to me, as he is clearly portrayed as homosexual. Her actual boyfriend, Clyde, was rather repugnant, and I just could not get myself to even consider liking him. 

There’s much backstabbing, drama and EVEN MORE DRAMA that ensues in this teeny novella, and I don’t want to spoil too much of it for anyone who is interested in reading it. Though I felt held back from really enjoying it by my dislike of the characters, it is a truly solid effort for a first or second draft (nobody is entirely sure what stage he was at in writing this). It gives us a great look at Capote’s early work and the beginnings of his moulding of characters that will become his most recognisable trait as a writer. He was a master at observing people and human behaviour, and depicting it perfectly, but he went on to write far better books. Still, it would have been a shame for this to be lost forever.

2.5/5 Stars

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7 thoughts on “Review: Summer Crossing by Truman Capote

  1. Great to see this reviewed as it is a really under-appreciated book. Sorry to hear you didn’t like it that much though, as I loved it! But I do see your point that there aren’t that many likeable characters, and of course it’s not a polished, finished, version.

    Interesting what you say about Grady being a proto-Holly. I do think this is the case in some respects, but it’s true that they are very different people. I think they are just formed from a similar mould of a girl in Capote’s mind. Also, there are a lot of superficial similarities that easily link them, like being young and unsure, living in New York, being desperate for happiness and freedom.

    Anyway I’m very glad you reviewed Summer Crossing, and I hope more people read it.

    • Wow, awesome comment, thank you! You’ve given me so much to contemplate.
      I think you’re right about the two women coming from a single base model… I just felt like Holly had a different vibe, something was missing in Grady for me. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, I think I had my expectations dangerously high for the book, so I’m definitely going to re-read it in the future! I hope more people read it too, it does deserve it.

    • I love the way he makes his writing flow, and he has such wonderful characters that really stick with you. The opening pages of Other Voices, Other Rooms absolutely blew me away, his descriptions were so magical!

  2. Pingback: October In Review | bookarahma

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