Book Reviews

Pagan Summer

Pagan Summer is the kind of book that, were it a movie, would be aired on Elwy Yost's Saturday Night at the Movies. It has the distinctive feel of an era gone by, with characters that are at once both endearing and pathetic. Set in the Rockies in the small resort town of Bampers (what appears to be a thinly disguised well-known Canadian Rocky Mountain Resort town), all the action takes place in and around the big lodge and golf course on the shores of Lake Beautiful. As the generic name of the lake suggests, the book is like a generic summer-time experience. Revolving around the social interaction of the hotel staff, the customers, and the staff with the customers. Pagan Summer crystallizes a moment in time where passions flair briefly and die as quickly when the summer season ends. The characters, you feel certain, will leave that 'moment' laden with nostalgic memories that will follow them home. As seems to be his wont, David Beasley peoples his books with interesting names -- D'Arcy, Dixie, Horsey and Johnny O'Dreams for a few -- and to the somewhat limited degrees he takes them, personalities to match. As with fleeting segments of time, and consequently the often cursory knowledge of people encountered in such circumstances, characters are not definitively explored. As with short term acquaintances, this book succeeds in giving a feel for the intrinsic awareness that all of this shall pass -- and quickly too. The bellhops and caddies at Lake Beautiful have come for the summer to earn cash for university, and though that is their primary goal, sexual conquest runs a very close second. For the most part their attentions are lavished on the chambermaids, but there are a few guests who become embroiled in these flash-in-the-pan affairs. The general themes of the book are love and the gradual crossover to maturity, often the former leading to the latter. Interestingly, Beasley's characters run the gamut of experience, sophistication, and moral conscience, and their individual stories are such that they reflect these traits. Infidelity, age difference, immaturity and homosexuality provide ample forums to ponder all of these things. Yet, despite the potential for heavy social commentary within the story, it is a light read peppered with era-appropriate dialogue that rings true. Drunken parties, pranks and secret trysts all take place in Pagan Summer. Nevertheless, Beasley's background in politics and economics become evident throughout the book. On the more serious side the book follows the staff unrest at Lake Beautiful, the tension surrounding the season's golf tournament (with a definite gulf between staff and clientele that is blindly accepted), bootlegging, and a hint of prejudice vis-a-vis the French Canadian staff. Pagan Summer is an easy read with enough small inserts to make the reader stop occasionally to contemplate the way certain times of life are set aside in memory in compartments all their own. Beasley has captured the essence of one such era and put it in this book.--VIEW April, 1998

VIEW - April, 1998



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