Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut

arctic-summerLike the title Arctic Summer, my review of said book is going to be a little bit of a contradiction in terms. There was so much about this book that I loved, and yet at times I just found it so boring.

Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut is a fictionalization of E.M. Forster’s post college years, as he developed as a writer, experienced and became disenchanted with colonialism, and explored his burgeoning homosexuality.

All that to me is so fascinating. In particular, I was intrigued by the different ways people found to express their homosexuality in the early twentieth century and how the expression differed depending on what colonial outpost one was in.

Arctic Summer also focuses on the struggles Forster had in writing his most famous novel, A Passage to India. I had no idea it took him so long to write it, that he abandoned it half way through and that he spent so much time in India. Now I feel absolutely compelled to re-read A Passage to India and I think i will enjoy more than ever before.

Who would like this book? Semi-fictionalized versions of famous author’s lives seems to be the thing right now. Think Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan (review), Mrs Hemingway and Z. Arctic Summer falls nicely into this category. More than some of the others, it has really compelled me to re-read some of Forster’s works because it gave such insight into his work. It would also appeal to anyone interested in matters of homosexuality in the early 20th century and the end of colonialism in Egypt and India.

Thank you to RandomHouse Canada for providing me with a copy of the book for review consideration.


  1. This is a book that I found claustrophobic in the reading relative to Galgut’s more typical spare work. Having had a chance to see him talk about the book and meet him, I asked him whether that was also his experience and he did admit that it was outside his comfort zone to create a work that required so much research and attention to historical and stylistic detail. Having said this, the book has stuck with me and my appreciation has grown since I read it especially after returning to A Passage to India. It does allow one to experience Forster’s masterpiece more fully and personally.

  2. This was a flop for me – I had been looking forward to it so much (because I love Forster’s writing), had pre-ordered, started reading as soon as it arrived… and then… then forced myself to finish. Found it to be quite lack-lustre.

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