Fiction – paperback; Bloomsbury; 248 pages; 2002.
Set in Yorkshire, Helen Cross’s My Summer of Love explores the strange and terrifying world of two teenage girls who spend the summer of 1984 hanging out together.
Mona is 15 and lives in a pub with her father and his girlfriend, Cleo, and Cleo’s son, Porkchop. Struggling to come to terms with the death of her mother the year before, Mona’s self-esteem is virtually zero. She gets through her days drinking vodka and other spirits on the sly, playing fruit machines, doing the odd bit of thieving and dreaming of “sexual allure”.
When she meets Tamsin, a spoilt rich girl whose sister recently died of anorexia, she finds the friend she has been so desperately looking for. While coming from opposite ends of the spectrum, the two girls forge a relationship based on alcohol, eating disorders and shared grief. It’s a weird friendship, bordering on the obsessional, and it soon becomes clear that they are not only a danger to themselves but to the safety of others outside their delusional realm.
I’m still not sure whether I liked this book or not. It is certainly very dark and sometimes comic. But it’s the girls’ relationship — twisted in a Heavenly Creatures kind of way — which is the most disturbing.
As well as this, Cross has done a superb job in recreating the 1980s, and the description of the sizzling summer and the Yorkshire market town in which Mona lives is so evocative you can almost smell the rawhide factory and feel the sun’s burning heat.