A Summer Place by Sloan Wilson

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First published in 1958 and then turned into a film of the same name in 1959 featuring Troy Donahue, Sandra Dee, Dorothy McGuire and Richard Egan, this classic romance is available for the first time in ebook format.

Ken and Sylvia met twice at the Summer Place.

The first summer they were in their teens. Their intimacy was without love. They'd met too early.

The second summer they shouldn't have fallen in love…and did. They were in their thirties-married-each with children. Had they met too late?

Ken and Sylvia decided to break two marriages to make the one they wanted together.

They almost broke a third that hadn't even started yet. Because Ken's daughter and Sylvia's son met at the Summer Place. They were in their teens. For them, it was neither too early nor too late.

This novel is about how marriages are made on earth-and unmade. It is about the price people pay for changing their minds about love.


Pine Island, Maine, thrust itself out of the sea like a huge medieval castle. There it stood, the only island in sight, with its Gothic cliffs defying the combers rolling in across the North Atlantic. The question of how it got there teased the mind. By the look of it, there must have been some explosion underground or a collision of massive forces which cast up this one island and left it as a frieze of violence. Although some of the narrow meadows in the interior were good for sheep, and the water in the pond was sweet, the mountains were dangerous. Beautiful in silhouette against the sky, they beckoned picnickers to attempt their paths, but often in a storm there was a roar of loose rock and the trees bowed down before an avalanche. Old John Hunter warned all visitors that this was no place for summer climbers.

The island sloped from east to west. It was about fifteen miles long, and on the south end there was a small harbor used by fishing boats and yachts. On one side of this harbor was the Hulberts’ boathouse, and on the other side was a long wharf owned by the Hunter family. On both structures stood unusually large signs which proclaimed no trespassing, violators will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Similar signs were posted at every possible landing place the island afforded.

From June till October a cut-down Gloucester schooner named the Mary Anne made daily trips under power from Harvesport, Maine, and, when the weather permitted, weekly trips in winter to bring mail and provisions. Twelve big summerhouses had been built long ago by families who had incorporated the island. Each owned ten acres around his own house, and the rest of the land was held in common. The descendants or successors of these families gathered there during July and August to renew old friendships and enmities.

They came from New York, Boston, Chicago—almost every major city in the United States was represented by at least a cousin. Some of the “Islanders,” as they liked to call themselves, were wealthy idlers, most were hard-working businessmen, and a few were failures who hung onto the island with the tenacity of the stunted birches that grew from cracks in the cliffs. The houses changed hands frequently, going to those who could afford them, with old residents paying frequent visits as poor friends or relations. Death made the houses change hands, and divorce and business disaster. The real-estate deeds recorded by the County Clerk in Harvesport could tell quite a story.

To strangers, the island was only another “summer place,” but to its owners it was more. It was so much more beautiful than the cities where they spent their winters that they liked to think of it as their home. They came from there. Some of them maintained their legal residence there, in spite of the fact that often they could get down only for a two-week vacation. These people made long, painful automobile trips to Maine in November to vote, and they got into all kinds of trouble with automobile registrations and other legal documents that had to be attended to in Maine in winter. Even when most inconvenienced by it, they boasted of the fact that the island had no telephones. They liked to think of themselves as “down-Easters”; they half hoped their children would pick up a Maine accent. They envied Todd Hasper, whom they employed to live the year around on the island taking care of their houses. Some of the “Islanders” were willing to go into careers they disliked to make enough money to keep going there. They loved the place, they said.

Todd Hasper also loved the island, but only in the wintertime, when he usually had it entirely to himself. A morose and solitary man, he raised sheep and goats for his own profit, and he liked them better than his employers. One winter night during the depression of the Thirties, some impoverished fishermen landed and stole some of his lambs. The next week Todd went to the mainland and bought a huge dog named Satan which he methodically trained to attack on sight any human being but himself. When this dog died, Todd Hasper replaced it with another. He had a whole series of them, usually of great Dane or mastiff blood. No matter how gentle these big dogs were when he acquired them, they always turned fierce inside of a few weeks, and he gave them all the same name. During the summertime the current Satan raged at the end of a long chain outside Todd Hasper’s cottage, or from a hand leash, but in the wintertime he roamed the island at will. Each winter week the mailboat put into the bay, the dog came racing out on the wharf with clear intent to kill. When Herb Andrews, the captain of the boat, complained, old Hasper told him to keep the mail—he never read it anyway.

Hasper was infuriated when, as sometimes happened, a house-owner decided to live on the island the year around. Recently divorced women tried that every few years. They set up Franklin stoves and kerosene heaters in the drafty summer cottages, and they stuffed the windows with rags, but they were usually gone before Christmas. Men who had suffered business failures sometimes lasted it out a little longer, but Hasper was usually able to unchain his dog by February at the latest.

Many unkind things could be said about Pine Island and often were said by people who moved away. Big Ken Jorgenson, for instance, used to think that it was simply a haven for the curiously cruel and pretentiously rich. Even when he himself made money, his memories of the island were bitter. For a long time its name alone brought back the summer of 1935 and the picture of a disdainful girl in a bathing suit and an imitation mink coat. At the age of seventeen, Sylvia Raymond had sported that combination when the wind got chilly on the beach. Ken laughed about her when he got older, but the image of her stuck in his mind, along with the sound of her mocking laughter. Ken Jorgenson’s memories of the place made his whole youth seem far more bitter than sweet until he finally was able to return.

Bart Hunter loved the island if anyone did, but even he was fond of pointing out that he wasn’t the only person there who drank too much, and the incidence of divorce and adultery was unusually high. “We’re all fearfully snobbish and tend to be anti almost everything but ourselves,” Bart occasionally remarked with an amiable if self-indulgent smile.

The families who owned the island became dangerously ingrown. Some of them had been coming there for three generations, and Bart’s son, young John, for instance, was a fourth-generation Islander. The girls of Pine Island families usually married boys they had met there, and a lot of joking was done about the island being “a marvelous place for romance.” Sylvia was once heard to remark somewhat acidly to her husband, Bart Hunter, that the salt sea air and the scent of pines must act as an aphrodisiac, for people who no more than nodded at each other on the mainland often fell into bed together soon after arriving. Bart, who prided himself on his “intuitive knowledge of psychology,” said no aphrodisiac was needed to explain the phenomenon. Most of the people on the island had a great deal of leisure, at least while they were there, and the island abounded in hidden places: long lonely beaches, caves, barns, boathouses and cottages temporarily unoccupied. It really was a good place for romance, he said; it had marvelous accommodations.

Barton Hunter was born on Pine Island in 1916, in a Victorian mansion overlooking the bay. His mother, Martha, had planned to go to Boston to have the baby, but she lingered as long as she could on the cool beaches, a pregnant woman dreading the heat of the big city, and the baby came three weeks before he was expected. Barton’s father, a fastidious banker, officiated at the birth of his own son, along with Todd Hasper, who was skilled at delivering goats and lambs. The experience was a terrifying one for all concerned, but both mother and baby survived. So Barton was a real native, not just a summer visitor, he used to tell people, and as he grew up he was proud to list as his place of birth: Pine Island, Maine.

Barton came to the island every summer until 1937, when he was expelled from his senior year at Harvard for drastically poor marks and started a search for a job which he would “really like.” His family had lost money during the depression, and it seemed unwise to keep the big summer mansion on the island, but no one wanted to sell it, even when old John Hunter, Bart’s father, was drowned there and it was discovered that his losses had been greater than anyone had known.

During the Second World War, Bart was happy to leave the investment firm where he had labored for six months and enter the Navy. A cousin of his was heard to remark that the war probably wouldn’t last very long, because every job that Bart took ended quickly, but he served as a naval officer with considerable distinction. For four years he regularly sent money home to help pay the taxes on the island. When he did not prosper in business after the war, the part of failure he hated most was the prospect of losing the house, the wooded paths and the beaches where he had played as a boy. As he remarked bitterly to Sylvia, the island was a perverted Garden of Eden from which one was expelled for the sin of poverty.

Bart was almost dangerously disconsolate in those days. Long before the Korean War, he tried to get back into the Navy. It came as a great shock to him when the doctors found, during the course of his physical examination, that he had stomach ulcers and rejected him. Although he was only in his early thirties, a premonition of death overtook him, and he brooded about robbing his children of their heritage, which to him meant Pine Island. The discovery of his sickness rendered him philosophical for a few weeks. He asked himself questions about why he was remaining in a business and city he didn’t like, and the upshot of it all was that in the year 1951 he decided to sell his house in Boston, to move permanently to Pine Island, and to convert the old mansion into a summer inn, catering mostly to “friends and the friends of friends.” The installation of additional plumbing and other alterations took most of his remaining resources, but to the indignation of Todd Hasper and his dog, Bart and Sylvia and their two children, John and Carla, lasted out two winters. Until Ken Jorgenson came back in August of 1953, it looked to Todd Hasper as though they would be there forever.

  • Published by: Untreed Reads

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