An enthralling work of literary fiction for which the film rights have already been sold, Ewig Sommer is the debut novel by Franziska Gänsler. Set in a not-too-distant future, it imagines southern Germany in the grip of climate change, with two strong female protagonists meeting as forest fires rage around them. Written in rhythmic, atmospheric prose, this thought-provoking novel challenges our complacency about the environment and poses a haunting question: ‘Whom can you trust?’
Gänsler has chosen a classic opening for her novel: ‘A stranger came to town.’ The setting is a spa town in southern Germany, where forest fires have subjected local hotels to a strict booking policy: no reservations, only walk-ins. The stranger in question is a woman named Dori, who arrives with her daughter, Ilya, at protagonist Iris’s old family hotel. Iris offers them a room but resents the disruption to her routine of sunbathing and reading.
Gradually, however, Iris develops an interest in Dori and particularly Ilya, for whom she is concerned after she sees her playing outside without a mask. Iris’s neighbour, Baby, is suspicious of Dori – she thinks she must be hiding from someone. As Iris spends more time with Dori, there is a hint of mutual attraction. When a man begins calling the hotel, looking for a girl and a woman he claims is his mentally unstable wife, Iris tells him there are no newcomers in town and rejects his offer of money.
Watching Dori care for Ilya, Iris is reminded of her own childhood: her grandfather didn’t believe her mother was fit to look after her. Annoyed by her initial lack of female solidarity, she helps Dori trick her husband into thinking she has left town. On their return, with a dangerously dehydrated Ilya, they find the fires have got worse; an evacuation is being planned. That night, a group of climate protestors show up at the hotel and, along with Baby, they drink and dance. Dori falls asleep and Ilya wanders off outside, though eventually is found safe and well. The episode prompts a noticeable change in Dori. The next day, it finally rains, and her husband arrives to collect her.
Ewig Sommer is an evocative, claustrophobic read set in a world of extreme climate change, which draws us deep into Iris’s perspective and examines non-physical abuse in relationships. The constant presence of the fires creates a dramatic backdrop to this delicately balanced story of friendship, trust and solidarity.
Rights sold to: France (Edition Astrid Franchet); film option.
Read more on the publisher’s website here: https://www.keinundaber.ch/buecher/ewig-sommer/