Summer is a dark romance of sexual awakening and the journey from desire to love. Set in a remote New England hilltown before the First World War, the novel is one of Edith Wharton’s greatest and most original works – the only one centered on an explicit physical relationship. She called it “the hot Ethan Frome”.
The story is told through the eyes of Charity Royall – an orphan “brought down from the mountain” – now twenty and hungry for life beyond the dusty village library where she has found a job. Charity lives alone with Lawyer Royall – older, alcoholic, and obsessed with her beauty. Enter Lucius Harney, a young architect from a different world.
Charity’s wary passage to adulthood unfolds through the bitter frustrations of her ambiguous relationship with Royall, and the lush, blossoming dream she shares with Lucius. The turning point comes among the crowds, fireworks and bunting of a feverish 4th of July celebration. Encompassing all is the cycling backdrop of New England seasons – spring into summer, fall into winter. Summer ends, so that it will come again.
“I’m sure Summer would film well.”
– Edith Wharton to her agent, Minnie Jones, April 16, 1923.