Review: A Spear of Summer Grass

Title: A Review of Summer Grass Image

Author: Deanna Raybourn

Rating: ★★★★

Provided Synopsis: The daughter of a scandalous mother, Delilah Drummond is already notorious, even amongst Paris society. But her latest scandal is big enough to make even her oft-married mother blanch. Delilah is exiled to Kenya and her favorite stepfather’s savannah manor house until gossip subsides. 

Fairlight is the crumbling, sun-bleached skeleton of a faded African dream, a world where dissolute expats are bolstered by gin and jazz records, cigarettes and safaris. As mistress of this wasted estate, Delilah falls into the decadent pleasures of society.  

Against the frivolity of her peers, Ryder White stands in sharp contrast. As foreign to Delilah as Africa, Ryder becomes her guide to the complex beauty of this unknown world. Giraffes, buffalo, lions and elephants roam the shores of Lake Wanyama amid swirls of red dust. Here, life is lush and teeming-yet fleeting and often cheap.  

Amidst the wonders-and dangers-of Africa, Delilah awakes to a land out of all proportion: extremes of heat, darkness, beauty and joy that cut to her very heart. Only when this sacred place is profaned by bloodshed does Delilah discover what is truly worth fighting for-and what she can no longer live without.

Review: This year alone I have read quite a few books with a female protagonist from the 1920s. The cliché that writers seem to fall upon with these flapper characters is to make all of them vapid and frivolous, so when I read the first two chapters of this book I was disappointed and expected Deanna Raybourn to give me more of the same. But Delilah Drummond is more than appearances and the persona that she presents to the world. Once she is shipped off to Kenya to lay low as a scandal tarnishes her name in Europe she achieves a level of maturation and growth.

As she did to Ryder White, Delilah constantly surprised me. She never allowed Africa or her circumstances to defeat her. Instead she met challenges head on. She came from a life of great privilege yet she immersed herself in all that Africa had to offer. Delilah took time to lean about the land, the animals, the politics, and the native people. I believe that a great deal of credit also needs to be bestowed upon Deanna Raybourn for placing her readers in Africa with such skill. I felt as if I were also in the bush; the descriptions and environment were enchanting and placed me by Delilah’s side throughout her journey. A character I had disliked from page one grew on me to the point that I had a healthy amount of respect for her.

My only detraction from the story was the conflict that came about late in the book. I found it a bit random and was not pleased with how it was resolved. I can understand why it was included, however, for it illustrated the unfair treatment between the whites and the natives in terms of justice. But I would have simply chosen another type of conflict to get that point across. Then, in relation to that conflict, I suppose you could also say that I would have loved to ship off some of the white settler characters, merely because they represented all that I already touched upon in the beginning of this review about what I hate about characters from the 1920s.

Those detractions aside, this was a great story about a woman fortifying her strength in a new landscape while learning how to overcome scars inflicted on her from the past.

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