There's a long list of reasons that Alice Adams's debut novel,
Invincible Summer, shouldn't work. But it clicks anyhow. Ms. Adams has managed to combine…a familiar plot…and pigeonhole-ready characters and spin their story into a heart tugger with seemingly honest appeal. This amazing feat doesn't rival those of the Large Hadron Collider, which plays a cameo role in Invincible Summer. But it's close…Ms. Adams [has a] gift for making her characters so changeable, so vulnerable, so universally familiar. They all make terrible decisions…and the book's main satisfaction comes from watching them adapt and cope.
The New York Times - Janet Maslin
Adams’s fun and memorable debut is a tale of the friendship of four British college chums. Working-class Eva falls in with a magnetic pair of siblings, rakish Lucien and artistic Sylvie. Sylvie’s trajectory to success (according to the group) seemed “inevitable” due to “a certain shine, a vividness about her... causing people to cluster around her.” And finally there is Benedict: wealthy, humble, and a talented student of physics. Upon graduation in 1997, Eva, Sylvie, and Lucien head to London, where Eva has secured a traineeship at an investment bank, while Benedict stays behind in Bristol for a Ph.D. That summer, just prior to Eva starting her adult life, Benedict invites Eva to his family’s vacation home in Greece and almost manages to make a move on her, wondering, “Did she genuinely not know how beautiful she was?” From there, the story follows the group chronologically through the years as they make choices that bring them by turns closer to and further from each other and from the dreams they’d had as students. Adams’s characters have many ups and downs, disappointments and adjustments, but they are believable due to her understated exposition of the characters’ psychologies. The reader will stick with the book, not from a real sense of jeopardy about how things will turn out, but because the characters are such good company. (June)
In the new millennium, siblings Sylvie and Lucien enjoy life as an aspiring artist and club promoter, respectively; Eva crushes on Lucien while ignoring her Socialist upbringing by working for a bank; and Benedict crushes on Eva while earning a PhD. Then they hit their thirties. British-based Adams's debut is going out with a 100,000-copy first printing.
Adams' sensitive debut follows a tightknit quartet of college friends as they navigate their shifting relationships—and evolving identities—over the course of two decades. After graduating from university in Bristol, Benedict, Eva, Sylvie, and Sylvie's brother, Lucien (technically not a student but a group member nonetheless), are on the cusp of their futures. Eva, a quietly rebellious physics grad, is poised to start a fancy finance job in London. Benedict—posh, studious, and in love with her—is staying on for a Ph.D. Artistic and free-spirited, Sylvie is off to travel for a year with Lucien, a caddish playboy who has long monopolized Eva's romantic attentions. The world seems alight with possibility; their bond feels unshakable. But as the years pass, and the disappointments of adulthood accumulate, the ties that once bound them begin to fray. Once, they hiked through Spain together; as they approach their 30s, they meet occasionally for distracted lunches and harried drinks. Their lives don't look the way they'd imagined they would: despite her talent, Sylvie isn't famous; despite their connection, Benedict and Eva haven't ended up together. And then—one personal crisis at a time—the four friends find their ways back to each other, forging new relationships that are deeper and more complicated than the ones they'd had at school. Adams doesn't stray far from convention here, but it hardly matters: her characters are nearly impossible not to root for, and she captures their often troubled dynamics with tremendous empathy and charming wit. And while the novel wraps up just a touch too neatly—the resolution isn't quite as much fun as the struggle—there is something pleasantly satisfying about its profound sense of hope. Breezy with substance; an absorbing summer read.
"Ms. Adams [has a] gift for making her characters so changeable, so vulnerable, so universally familiar.... As they help one another through a long parade of crises, some of them truly character-building, Ms. Adams's story develops an increasing power that can be created only incrementally. And by the novel's end...its message of friendship, love and loyalty hits home."
Janet Maslin, New York Times "Moving.... Bittersweet and compassionate.... Adams casts a keen eye on that slow shock of the 20s, when even the most exceptional young people discover they are just...people, with jobs and partners decided as much by happenstance as by desire." Sophie McManus, Washington Post "[An] irresistible debut novel.... A crackerjack storyteller who deeply inhabits her characters-deploying pitch-perfect dialogue to poignant and hilarious effect-Adams uses the conventions of the form to examine larger ideas about class and commerce, art and science, friendship and family at the time of the most recent fin de siècle." Joanna Rakoff, New York Times Book Review "A testament to the power of friendship and love, this is a beautiful coming-of-age story about the intimacy of long-term relationships against the changing landscape of time." Elizabeth Kiefer, Refinery 29 "Easy yet not insubstantial, this debut is a sweet toast to enduring friendship." Meredith Turits, ELLE "Like life, this breezy, charming novel about four college friends deepens and darkens as it moves through the years, presenting its characters with challenges and choices that test them in ways their younger selves couldn't imagine. INVINCIBLE SUMMER is the story of what happens when things get real." Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children and The Leftovers "A sophisticated yet fun novel about four friends venturing into adulthood. Alice Adams does a magnificent job of describing the way life's heartbreaks and ecstasies unfold over the course of 20 years." Elin Hilderbrand, author of The Rumor "Adulthood has never been so endearing." Steph Opitz, Marie Claire "INVINCIBLE SUMMER goes down as smoothly as the steady flow of wine knocked back by its disarming characters as they make their way not only into adulthood but through the last two decades of financial boom and bust, London's rave scene, and the Higgs boson particle. Be forewarned, though: It packs a punch. Alice Adams has important things to say about our times and the meaning of family." Anne Korkeakivi, author of An Unexpected Guest "INVINCIBLE SUMMER is a novel that will have you running for the phone to call your old friends and reconnect. Alice Adams is a beautiful storyteller. She deftly weaves the ties that bind four friends over the course of their youth and into middle age with powerful threads of emotion. I loved the world of this book, and how Ms. Adams wrote the passing of time through her characters with delicacy and truth." Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of All the Stars in the Heavens "[Adams'] characters are nearly impossible not to root for, and she captures their often troubled dynamics with tremendous empathy and charming wit.... Breezy with substance; an absorbing summer read." Kirkus Reviews "Adams movingly depicts the tough steps we take into adulthood." Good Housekeeping "Dreamy Pisceans will delight in Adams' novel." Cosmopolitan "Adams does an incredible job [of] conveying life's ups and downs with both humor and compassion, [and] shows herself to be especially skilled at crafting charming, empathetic (albeit troubled) characters you can't help but cheer on." Sadie L. Trombetta, Bustle "A fun book about friendship." Catherine Mallette, Fort Worth Star Telegram "Perfect for the beach, but it's got some substance as well.... Think of this as The Big Chill for millennials." Deborah Dundas, Toronto Star "In Adams' rollicking beach read, romantic love ensnares and eludes, but friendship is the anchor amid the storms of life." Virtuoso Life "Growing up and growing apart from friends is an inevitable-and bittersweet-part of life, one that has been poignantly captured in INVINCIBLE SUMMER.... With beautiful attention to detail and keen observations on life, love and even finance, Adams has crafted a delightful novel that is as insightful as it is breezy." Hope Racine, BookPage "[A] remarkable debut...both smart and readable." Largehearted Boy "An interesting and thoughtful character study that examines the finer points of long-term friendship." Rebecca Vnuk, Booklist "Both a breezy read as well as one that challenges all who come across it." Adam Vitcavage, Volume 1 Brooklyn "Will keep your nose stuck in the pages until the sun sets on your breezy summer day." YourTango.com "It's a tale as old as time, but Adams' spin is fresh and makes you want to send an emotional text to all of your college friends." Lydia Mansel, Elite Daily "A bittersweet debut, with echoes of One Day...." Patricia Nicol, Sunday Times (UK)