The ”Summer Before The Dark” is a novel about a series of events that unfold one summer. The protagonist is a middle-aged woman, Mrs. Kate Brown. She is the ideal homemaker-responsible, sensible and patient. Beneath her calm demeanour, there simmers a disturbed mind that craves for attention. She is dissatisfied with her life being tossed around by her children and her husband. She thirsts for freedom from her wifely obligations.
The decision she takes one summer pulls her along a completely unexpected mental and physical journey. That summer her husband and her daughter go to America, and her two boys go on pleasure trips of their own. The Brown family rents their house. As a favour to her husband’s friend she joins Global Food, an organization that deals with tackling food-related problems globally, as a translator. There she is a rising star, the perfect advisor to her colleagues. At Global Food she is thanked and sought after unlike how she is treated in her house. She enjoys her new job,and the flamboyant yet organized atmosphere of her workplace. She becomes so good at her job that she is promoted and her tenure in the organization is extended.
After a period of time she leaves Global Food and plunges into an affair with a younger man named Jeffrey. They visit Spain. There Jeffrey falls ill, and Kate stays by him more out of maternal affection than out of anything else. In her lover’s company, she unknowingly reminisces about her married life and realizes that she has turned a blind eye on all her wishes. Soon she falls ill,and the only choice she has is to return to London. There she stays in a hotel feeling feverish and delirious. She is bedridden for days. The bitterness she has towards her family and the illness addles her mind, and she is on the verge of losing her sanity.This is reflected by her behaviour at a theatre: she loudly comments and scoffs at the performance of the actors and becomes a nuisance both to the audience and the actors. The money she received as payment for her job at Global Food starts disappearing and she finds that she has to search for a less expensive place to stay.
Kate comes across a small house owned by an eighteen year old girl named Maureen. Th girl is a complete opposite to Kate: wild, independent, and reckless. Kate occupies a room in the house as a lessee. She and Maureen quickly develop a friendship. Kate talks freely about her husband and her children. Even though she is far away from home she takes the role of Maureen’s mother, and advises her on various things. One night when a party is going on in the house she realizes that she can’t stay with Maureen forever and quietly slips out of the house.
Kate might seem like an ordinary middle-aged woman, but some thoughts that find their way to her head makes her different at the same time. A break from her routine life made her realize the dull, pointless life she was leading. Kate is not a pleasant character despite the fact that she is the victim here. Her life is not fictional, she represents the lives of many women neglected and ignored by their family. For her, looking good is imperative; her flaming red hair and her pale face is her pride. When she falls ill, she becomes a gaunt, frail woman with a mass of frizzy hair, people barely glance at her, it was though she were invisible. The fact that people were not turning their heads to look at her grieves her.The reader feels Kate’s insecurity when she is robbed of her looks.
Resentment she has towards her family, the change into an ugly duckling, the illness, and the unexpected break in her monotonous life all drives her to the point where sanity and insanity cannot be distinguished. The time she has with Maureen lets her retrace her steps back into sanity. It is kind of ironical that Kate wishes to got back to her family, the same family who stifled her and took her for granted. Maybe Kate is a person who cannot imagine a life without them however disregarding they are to her.