Inga Vesper’s debut novel, The Long, Long Afternoon, opens in the claustrophobic heat of the summer of 1959, against the background of an America experiencing great change, socially, politically and racially.

Sunnylakes, where the book’s set, is a wealthy, white enclave of Santa Monica, where the women and men adhere to gender-stereotypes, the former tending to their beautiful homes and perfect children, the latter, well, behaving like men. Then one afternoon, Sunnylakes is shaken up by the news that Joyce Haney, wife and mother of two, has disappeared and there’s blood in her kitchen. Even worse, Ruby Wright, the black help, has been arrested.

Vesper successfully creates a Douglas Sirk-esque world of rich, white privilege in the suburbs of 1950s’ California. Here, women like Joyce are constrained, forced into living narrow lives of ennui, which they cope with by self-medicating. Ruby, a bright young woman, also has a narrow life, defined not just by gender but by the colour of her skin. Ruby, though, has aspirations; she wants to go to college, to be somebody, and Joyce was one of the few people with whom she had a connection, who seemed to see beyond her race.

Ruby’s enlisted by Detective Mick Blanke to help investigate Joyce’s disappearance. And as more questions are asked, the underlying problems in Sunnylakes begin to surface – the systemic racism and misogyny, but also the dark secrets that lie behind the doors of those seemingly perfect homes.

A well-penned and well-paced novel, The Long, Long Afternoon is recommended.


The Long, Long Afternoon  | Inga Vesper | Manilla Press | hardback, ebook & audio |

4 February 2021

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Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for the invitation to/organising the tour and to the publisher for sending us a review copy. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved. Please check out the other lovely reviews on this tour.

Also of interest: The Stone Diaries’; ‘Alice Walker and the power of poetry‘; ‘By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Sylvia Plath on poetry‘; ‘WB Yeats, “The Journey of the Magi“‘; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Remembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

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