'Incredibly perceptive style... The novel’s denouement is a compelling whodunit, with twists and turns to grip until the very end, making Summer of '76 a great book for summer holiday reading.'—We Love This Book
Read first chapter
In this intense novel of secrets and simmering passions the acclaimed author of Glasshopper and Hurry Up and Wait takes us back to the legendary heatwave of 1976.
It’s the start of one of the hottest summers on record with soaring temperatures and weeks without rain; the summer of Abba, T-Rex, David Bowie and Demis Roussos; of Martinis, cheesecake and chicken chasseur; of the Montreal Olympics and the Notting Hill riots – the summer Big Ben stopped dead.
Luke Wolff is about to turn eighteen and is all set to enjoy his last few months at home on the Isle of Wight before leaving for college. Life is looking good; his job at a holiday camp promises new friendships, even the possibility of romance, and his parents are too preoccupied with their own problems to worry much about their son’s growing independence.
But with windows and doors constantly open and life increasingly lived outside, secrets become hard to hide. As Luke listens in, his parents’ seemingly ordered existence comes unstuck. Soon the community is gripped by scandal, and everything Luke thought he knew about friendship and family is turned on its head.
Winner of the Mail on Sunday Novel Competition, Isabel Ashdown once again unravels the complexity of her characters’ lives – and reveals what really lies beneath the surface.
Isabel Ashdown is also the author of Hurry Up and Wait (Myriad, 2011), Flight (Myriad, 2015) and A Quiet Winter (Myriad, 2015).
Summer of ’76 Book Group Guide
A fabulous coming-of-age novel that's saturated in '70s nostalgia.
A perfect read for a lazy summer day, full of wonderful description and nostalgia... Evocative and well-researched, this is yet another engaging read from Isabel Ashdown.
The London Diaries
Ashdown’s writing style is lovely and easy to read and she’s very good at capturing the nuances of the time in her writing.View source
Fiction Is Stranger Than Fact
This novel considers the nature of family itself... a fabulous read.View source
A gentle, slow-paced book... matched the hot, lazy summer perfectly.View source
Isabel Ashdown has produced an extraordinary story from ordinary characters who live in an ordinary town and on the face of it, live pretty ordinary lives... There is a real art to creating everyday characters that pull the reader in quite as much as the Wolff family do... This is a first-class novel, excellent writing and fabulous characters. I'd recommend it to anyone.View source
I found it almost impossible to put the book down... This was an incredibly satisfying read and one that I am happy to recommend, whatever the weather.View source
Fleur in her World
Her writing feels so natural, and I was pulled right into the time and the place. Characters and relationships are simply and clearly drawn, and they were so easy to believe... This is one of those book that captures real lives, lived in a particular place and time, and makes them intriguing. There’s plenty to think about, lots of things that can be debated, and yet it never feels demanding. Perfect reading for the long, hot summer that might just be on the way.View source
Ashdown's writing has transported me away from our awful summer weather, into a time when all the doors and windows had to be open and the beaches were jam-packed with tanned and gleaming bodies. I’ve believed I’ve been on this journey with Luke, right by his side.View source
The author paints a beautiful picture of a classic British summer, and has created characters that are likeable and interesting, flawed but real.
Isabel Ashdown has her finger on the pulse of adolescent/adult relationships and particularly on the way that young people interact with each other. I often felt as though I was eavesdropping as she picked up on the nuances of relationships, how they ebb and flow and how even the best of friendships can have a fallow period. She's great too on how families interact – that volatile mixture of openness and deep secrets, honesty and dishonesty. I loved the relationship which Luke had with his grandmother.View source
Paul Armfield, Waterstones
This warm-hearted and intelligent novel... gets straight to the essence of the era... Loyalty, fidelity and friendship are all called to account as the sweltering summer heat opens doors and windows to reveal the troubled interiors of seemingly happy and carefree lives. A compulsive tale that unravels beautifully the big issues of little people and does so with a compassion and understanding that is deserving of the highest praise.
A genius at nailing the drama of the humdrum, Isabel Ashdown is a natural storyteller and a keen observer of human nature and its foibles. Surprising, evocative, compelling and lyrical, Summer of '76 is a literary scorcher.View source
Ashdown always manages to capture a real sense of Britain's past without resorting to rose-tinted glasses.
TripFiction: Top Summer Reads
Summer of '76 is a must-read for those who love the Isle of Wight, as it escorts the reader around the island, and it is going to be a particular favourite for those who remember the 1970s - if you smile when you think of T Rex, David Bowie's Young Americans, slotting a flashcube on your camera, the Triumph Dolomite car, home brewing kits and more, then this is definitely for you!View source
Summer of '76 did not disappoint. Evocative of that hot, dry summer … book groups will have a lot to discuss.
Ashdown is adept at portraying the bickering normalcy of ordinary family life... [she] effortlessly transports you back to the seventies – a world of Abba, flares, punk and David Bowie.View source
A thought-provoking novel, funny as well as moving, and extremely difficult to put down. Isabel Ashdown writes with clarity and grace, using spare, deceptively straightforward prose to tackle complex, sometimes taboo issues. The coming-of-age of her teenage protagonist adds poignancy to her adept detailing of the fragility of human relationships. The story’s power is enhanced by its island setting, where personal histories overlap and lives become entangled. Claustrophobia combines with the sense of an impending crisis as the extraordinary heat of that summer builds, leaving the reader keen to discover what will be exposed when the thin veneer of everyday family life is peeled back. This one will fly off the shelves.
The Simple Things
Isabel Ashdown handles big themes and period details with heart.