Imagine Elizabeth von Arnim’s The Enchanted April, set in the 1950s instead of the 20s and in Switzerland instead of Italy, with added post-war social turbulence. The result is The Swiss Summer. I enjoyed this book; there was so much wonderfully observed detail that I felt I’d been on holiday and didn’t want to come home.
The story follows a mismatched group of English people who end up living together in a chalet, resented by an elderly Swiss woman who has been looking after the chalet for her owner, an aristocrat who never visits any more. There isn’t much of a plot, as the focus is on the scenery, tourism and the peasant way of life. The latter is certainly romanticised and seem to be a different species who have nothing in common with the tourists they serve and loathe. I feel that the book is a valuable document of holidays in a neutral country, the sense of class erosion at the time and the new generation of young adults who were children during the war.
Mostly I found the narrative interesting and it has the occasional weird flash-forwards (if that’s a thing) that can be found in Gibbons’ later work and which deny a happy ending to certain characters.
A book that deserves to be better-known, I think.
First published in 1951. This edition published by Dean Street Press, 2021.
7 thoughts on “Review of ‘The Swiss Summer’ by Stella Gibbons”
How interesting! Was the book written with The Enchanted April in mind, do you think?
I’m imagining a 1980s version if it is!
I’d like to think that Stella Gibbons was inspired by The Enchanted April 🙂 I was surprised at how much I liked this book as her lesser known ones can be a mixed bag.
I’ve been meaning to read more by Stella Gibbons too, but like you have not enjoyed all of her books equally. I’m hoping to find The Swiss Summer, though 🙂
This one should be on your list, I think it’s one of the best of her more obscure books!
I’d like to read this and more by Gibbons!
She was very prolific – I have read most of her books by now and I think this would be in the top 10 🙂
Really! Very good to know. The Pink Front Door was just lovely.