One fateful night, a deadly accident at a Los Angeles intersection changes the lives and fortunes of three innocent women -- Kathryn, Laurel, and Julia Peyton -- destined to be caught in a tangled web of obsession, revenge, and unruly passion. Wealthy California oil magnate Victor Banning also lost his son and daughter-in-law that night, an accident caused by his own selfish actions and dark secrets. Afterward, Victor aspires to raise their sons Jud and Cale to be just like him: hungry predators in a dog-eat-dog world...until years later, everything changes when they meet Laurel Peyton.
Spanning thirty years and three generations of Peyton women and Banning men, The Days of Summer follows both deeply affected families as they recover from the emotional heartbreak of tragedy and loss -- only to cross paths once again in the most unexpected of ways. Provocative and lyrical, it explores the depth of blood ties, the mistakes we make in the name of love, and our ability to hope, forgive, and find the courage to change.
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.50(d)|
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The Days of SummerA Novel
By Jill Barnett
AtriaCopyright © 2006 Jill Barnett
All right reserved.
Warm and motionless nights were natural in LA, a place where so much of life was staged and the weather seldom competed for attention. Here, events and people stood in the limelight. On most nights, somewhere in the city, searchlights panned the sky; tonight, in front of the La Cienega Art Gallery. All the art show regulars were there in force, names from the society pages, old money and new, along with enough existentialist poets and bohemians to fill every coffeehouse from Hollywood to Hermosa Beach.
Well-known art critics chatted about perspective and meaning, debated social message. They adored the artist, a vibrant, exotic woman whose huge canvases had violent splashes of color charging across them, and wrote about her work in effusive terms as bold as the work itself, likening her to the abstract expressionists Pollock and de Kooning. Rachel Espinosa was the darling of the LA art scene, and Rudy Banning's wife.
Rudy came to the show late, after drinking all afternoon. His father was right: he was a sucker -- something that was easier to swallow if he chased it with a bottle of scotch. The searchlights were off when he parked his car outside the gallery. Once inside, he leaned againstthe front door to steady himself.
A milky haze of cigarette smoke hovered over the colorless sea of black berets, gray fedoras, and French twists. In one corner, a small band played an odd arrangement of calypso and jazz -- Harry Belafonte meets Dave Brubeck. The booze flowed, cigarettes were stacked every few feet on tall silver stanchions, and the catering was Catalan -- unusual -- and done to propagate the lie that his wife, Rachel Maria-Teresa Antonia Espinosa, was pure Spanish aristocracy. This was her night, and her stamp was on the whole production.
She stood near the back half of the room, under a canned light and in front of one of her largest and latest pieces, Ginsberg Howls. The crowd milled around her, but most managed to stay a few feet away, as if they were afraid to get too close to such an icon. A newspaper reporter for the Los Angeles Times interviewed her, while a staff photographer with rolled-up shirtsleeves circled around her, snapping photos with sharp, blinding flashes.
Rachel turned on for the camera, striking a carefully choreographed pose Rudy had seen before: arm in the air, a martini glass with three cocktail onions in her hand. Tonight she wore bright orange. She knew her place in this room.
Rudy helped himself to a drink from a cocktail tray carried by a passing waiter, then downed the whiskey before he was ten feet away from her. She didn't see him at first, but turned with instinctive suddenness and looked right at him. What passed between them was merely a ghost of what had been -- the days when one look across a room could evaporate everything around them. His wife's expression softened, until he set his empty drink on a passing tray and grabbed another full one, then raised the glass mockingly and drank it as she watched him, her look so carefully controlled.
"Darling!" Rachel said quickly, then turned to the reporter. "Excuse me." She rushed forward hands outstretched. "Rudy!" When he didn't take her hands, she slid her arm through his and moved toward a corner. "You're late."
"Really?" Rudy looked around. "What time was this charade supposed to start?"
"You're drunk. You reek of scotch." She pulled him away from the crowd.
"Are you trying to shove me off into a corner? I'm six foot four. A little hard to hide." Rudy stopped bullishly and turned so she was facing the room. "You crave attention so much. Look. People are staring."
"Stop it!" Her voice was quiet and angry.
"I know, Rachel."
"Of course you know. No one force-fed you half a bottle of scotch." Her deep breath had a tired sound. "Dammit, Rudy. Do you have to ruin everything?"
Her fingers tightened around his arm. Murmurs came from those nearby, and people eased closer.
"I know," he said with emphasis. The music faded and the room quickly grew quiet. Rudy had the laughable thought that if it wasn't a show before, it certainly was one now.
"What are you talking about?"
Apparently lying and persona were all that was left of the woman he'd married. Strange how confronting her felt nothing like he'd imagined. "You want me to shout it? Here? For everyone?" He waved his hand around. "For that reporter, darling?" His breath was shallow, like he'd been running miles. His vision blurred around the edges, and the taste of booze lodged in his throat. "I will shout it to the world. Damn you. Damn you, Rachel!" He threw his drink at the painting behind her, and the glass shattered in a perfectly silent room. He stumbled out the front door into the empty night air. At the curb, he used the car's fin to steady himself, then got inside.
Rachel came running outside. "Rudy!"
He jammed his key in the ignition.
She pulled open the passenger door. "Stop! Wait!"
"Go to hell."
She crawled inside and tried to grab the keys. "Don't leave."
Rudy grabbed her wrist, pulled her across the seat until her face was inches from his. "Get out or I'll drag you with the car." He shoved her away and started the engine.
"No!" She closed her door and reached for the keys again.
His foot on the gas, the car raced down the street, straddling lanes as he struggled for control. Tires screeched behind them, but he didn't give a damn.
"Rudy, stop!" She sounded scared, so he turned the next corner faster. The car fishtailed and he floored it again. She hugged the door and seemed to shrink down into someone who actually looked human, instead of a goddess who painted intricate canvases and saw the world with a mind and eye unlike anyone else's. Ahead the stoplight turned red. He slammed on the brakes so hard she had to brace her hands on the dashboard.
"You're driving like a madman. Pull over and we can talk."
"There it is again, Rachel, that calm voice. Your reasonable tone, so arrogant, as if you are far above the rest of us mere mortals because you don't feel anything."
"I feel. You should know. I feel too much. I know you're upset. We'll talk. Please."
"Upset doesn't even come close to what I am. And it's too fucking late to talk." The light turned green and he floored it.
"Rudy, stop! Please. Think of the boys," she said frantically.
"I am thinking of the boys. What about you? Can you ever think about anyone but you?" He took the next corner so quickly they faced oncoming traffic, honking horns, the sound of skidding tires. A truck swerved to avoid them. It took both of his hands to pull the careening car into his own lane. At the yellow signal, he lifted his foot off the gas to go for the brake, paused, then stomped on the accelerator. He could make it.
"Don't!" Rachel shouted. "It's turning red!"
"Yeah, it is." He took his eyes off the road. "Scared, Rachel? Maybe now you'll feel something." Her whimpering sound made him feel strong. His father was wrong. He wasn't a weak fool. Not anymore. The speedometer needle shimmied toward seventy. The gas pedal was on the floor. He could feel the power of the engine vibrate through the steering wheel right into his hands.
"Oh, God!" Rachel grabbed his arm. "Look out!"
A white station wagon pulled into the intersection.
He stood on the brakes so hard he felt the seat back snap. The skid pulled at the steering wheel, and he could hear tires scream and smell the rubber burn. Blue lettering painted on the side of the station wagon grew huge before his eyes:
Rock and Roll with Jimmy Peyton and the Fireflies
The other driver looked at him in stunned horror, his passengers frantic. One of them had his hands pressed against the side window. A thought hit Rudy with a passive calmness: they were going to die. Rachel grabbed him, screaming. With a horrific bang, her scream faded into a moan. The dashboard came at him, the speedometer needle still shimmying, and everything exploded.
Copyright 2006 by Jill Barnett Stadler
Excerpted from The Days of Summer by Jill Barnett Copyright © 2006 by Jill Barnett. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
"Top-Ten Beach Read." Kirkus Reviews
"A splendid novel, the kind you'll want to read more than once." Catherine Coulter
"Passionate, intense, gloriously dramatic storytelling just what readers have been waiting for." Jayne Ann Krentz, bestselling author of All Night Long
"Intense and compelling.... A story you won't be able to put down, one you'll want to talk about long after you've finished the last pages." Kristin Hannah, bestselling author of Magic Hour
Reading Group Guide
Reading Group Guide
Days of Summer by Jill Barnett
About The Book
Financier Rudy Banning and his wife Rachel, a popular artist, lead a life of privilege, wealth, and domestic unhappiness, while Jimmy Peyton is on his way to becoming a music legend. They have nothing in common until the day their cars collide leaving behind three children whose lives are forever changed. While Kathryn Peyton struggles to raise Laurel alone, Cale and Jud Banning are sent to live with their grandfather, destined for an upbringing intended to turn them into predators in a dog-eat-dog world.
But fate has a cruel surprise in store for the Banning brothers, who years later meet and fall for Laurel. Soon brother is pitted against brother as they vie for the heart of this innocent young woman -- a clash of wills that gradually draws them all closer to forbidden love and the truth of their tragic connection.
Questions And Topics For Discussion
1. The Bannings and Peytons are the real victims of the automobile crash that killed Rudy, Rachel, and Jimmy. Victor's grandsons come to live with him and he makes a concerted effort to drive them apart. What is it about Victor that makes him believe in his motives? Do you understand or agree with his reasons? Kathryn moves in with Jimmy's mother for Laurel's sake. Why do you think she really made the move? What is it about Kathryn that does not allow her to separate herself from Jimmy's death? Does this make her pitiable or sympathetic? Why?
2. A recurring theme in the book is about the mistakes we make in the name of love. Describe each character's failure at love and their capacity for understanding what love is.
3. Which characters change? How? Which characters don't change? Name a scene that tells you they cannot change. What does the characters' ability or inability to change say about the nature of love, family, and loyalty?
4. Victor writes Cale off as irresponsible and too easily distracted by women, and believes there is no potential for greatness within him. Do you think his perception impacts Cale positively or negatively or both? Why?
5. How does Laurel both exacerbate and heal the wounds between Cale and Jud? Do you think she ultimately has a positive or negative effect on their lives? Why or why not? How are Cale and Jud different from Victor? In what ways do they exemplify the lessons he taught them? How does the next generation reflect a growth and change in male relationships?
6. A prominent part of the book describes the experience of young love and burgeoning sexuality. Laurel misunderstands sexual thrill as love and pays a terrible price for it. Is her response believable? Does her failure to love and understand love make her more or less sympathetic?
How does a woman know or learn the difference? Do you believe that Laurel's love was true in Part Two? Did you feel differently in Part Three and by the end of the book? Why?
7. Many of the main characters have histories that haunt them. How does the past become an influential part of the present? Discuss the points at which memory and mistakes affect a character's actions or change how a moment is played out. Do any of the characters ever fully escape their individual and collective pasts?
8. What motivates Jud to pursue Laurel? Were Jud and Laurel meant to be? Should Cale and Laurel have been the destined lovers?
9. Kathryn's grief over the loss of her husband colors everything, including her interactions with her daughter. Do you understand her reaction? Kathryn fears the Bannings will continue to destroy them. When she warns Laurel away from Cale, then Jud -- both at the cost of her relationship with her daughter -- was she right? Was her intention to save her daughter worth the ultimate damage to their relationship? Do you believe she is a good mother?
10. In Part Three, we come to see who these characters have become after thirty years. How much did the turbulence, the social and sexual influences of the late 1960's and early 1970's affect the earlier decisions of the characters? Discuss how their decisions would have been different if they were facing the same problems today.
11. Laurel's secret about Greg O'Hanlon haunts her for years. How do you feel about her original decision? Even in 1970, was it justified? When she finally seeks him out, should she have told him the truth? Should she have told Jud and Cale?
12. Victor spends years collecting artwork. What drives him to do it? Why does he hide the pieces away? What does that say about Victor? Is he a man capable of love? How does his relationship with Kathryn in Part Three change or further your opinion of him? How did you feel about Victor by the end of the book?
13. Thematically, what is the purpose of the third generation? How are they like their parents and grandparents? How are they different?
14. Which character learns the most by the end of the book? Which character has changed the most? How did Victor and Kathryn's weaknesses, strengths, and actions influence the biggest changes?
15. At its heart, The Days of Summer is about characters who must face difficult choices, terrible pain, and betrayal. This is certainly what makes the characters seem so damaged, yet allows for their dramatic rise to grace. Do you believe the characters are victims of their own self perceptions, choices, and realities? Is there one character you would like to have seen change more? If so, who and why?