I really loved this book. It’s one of those books that gets under your skin and you can completely lose yourself in – I couldn’t wait to go to bed so I could pick it up again, and I found myself having to reach for a chapter or two (or three or four) during the night if I woke.
Set in 1976, it is the story of Spencer Little, a mathematician from Cambridge University, who feels the need to escape from Cambridge during the summer break to try to work out a maths proof for a fellowship he is working towards, and to leave behind the whisperings following a ‘situation’ that occurred towards the end of term.
He cycles to the Lake District and stumbles across a farm where he stops to ask for work, and he spends the summer working simply for his food and board, while spending his evenings working on his maths proof. A shy man, with a stutter, he slowly becomes involved in rural life, despite attempts to remain anonymous, and makes friends with the 10-year old farmer’s daughter, Alice, and a local eccentric, and becomes a hero when saving Alice from a fire on the hills.
As the heat intensifies, so does the pace of the story as we learn about the events which pushed him to leave Cambridge, and it builds towards its tragic conclusion. It’s a story of love, betrayal, loneliness, friendship and tragedy. It’s a sad but supremely beautiful book.