Firstly, can I just say how much I love the cover of this book - so simple and yet very effective. I found myself turning to look at it at random times throughout my reading. Which is not to say that the book is not an absorbing read!
The Summer Without Men is the story of Mia - a middle aged woman whose husband has just told her he would like to take a "pause" in their 30 year marriage to explore a relationship with a much younger colleague. Mia does not take the announcement well and she spends some time in a psychiatric hospital after Boris's decision sends her into a psychotic depression.
When Mia leaves hospital she decides to temporarily move to the town where she grew up as a child to get some distance from her life with Boris and to continue to write and teach poetry. While in the small town of Bonden Mia spends time with her ageing mother and her variety of friends, she teaches the craft of poetry and life lessons to a group of adolescent girls and she connects with a young mother and her two children living in the house next door to her. Mia refers to this part of her life as "the Yawn between Crazed Winter and Sane Fall".
The book is told from Mia's perspective and at times it can feel very insular and indulgent - I didn't particularly find the sections where Mia shares some of her poetry very enlightening for example. But the parts of the book where Mia talks about her relationships and the new connections she is making (especially with the woman next door and her mother) I could have read so much more of. There is a growth and a discovery process going on for Mia over the the course of the novel and it is great to be able to see this take place - the narrative form of the book almost makes it feel as though you are a part of this process also.
I loved this story for it's focus on women and the relationships we form - both good and not so good.