This is one of those books, I'm sorry to say, that didn't touch me at all. It left me almost completely indifferent. I know I'll forget about it very quickly, so I'm happy I jotted down some notes right after I finished it!
England, summer 1960s. For Richard this summer is a sort of initiation to adulthood. First love, first sex, first death.
It's also an introduction to the exotic, the unusual and outrageous, through the unconventional Dalton Family. Cleo attracts Richard's attention immediately, with her penetrating violet eyes and black shiny hair. She's 15, like Richard, but seems to have much more experience than him. At first their relationship goes though a time of bliss and playfulness. Having sex in the fields and woods, inventing games inspired by The Lord of the Rings or Swallow and Amazons. But soon Richards realises he can't have Cleo all for himself. He has to spend time with her millions of relatives, and more importantly, he has to pose for her father Jay, who seems to have found in him a new inspiration for his paintings.
There are hints of secrets that Cleo's family are hiding. There's an air of mysticism around Jay, but there's something else, some untold truth that might destroy their summery idyll for ever.
I read this till the end,eager to find out the big secrets, but honestly, there wasn't much to it. The ending felt very anti-climatic, and the story itself never had much appeal to me. I did like some things, though. The idea of the Daltons was intriguing and the writing itself was great. But other than that, a rather forgetful read.
Celia Rees is the author of Witch Child. I'd recommend to try that one, if you want to read something by her. It was different, in themes and settings, but definitely a much better book.