As we follow Kate's journey, we experience with her the joys of freedom, along with the risks. Will a foray into a brief affair bring her what is missing in her life? Or will the opportunity to earn her own money give her something she wants? But unexpected events turn these experiences into something quite different, as we see Kate's journey turn dark, with strange and symbolic dreams.
Then her journey takes her to a flat and a young girl who is on the verge of her life, while Kate is at a different crossroads. They share experiences and thoughts, and when the journey ends and the dark unfolds into springy lightness, Kate is ready to finally go home and rejoin her family. But she has a different perspective and a new way to be.
The rich symbolism throughout The Summer Before the Dark (Vintage International) reminded me once again why Lessing is such a great writer. Kate's recurring dream of a seal she is struggling to rescue and carry to safety reminds us that her nurturing aspects have controlled her life. She now must move on to something different. As she thinks about going home, she realizes something significant, as described in this passage:
"The mood she was in when she walked in at her front door again would be irrelevant: now that was the point, it was the truth. We spend our lives assessing, balancing, weighing what we think, we feel...it's all nonsense. Long after an experience which has been experienced as this or that kind of thought, emotion, and judged at the time accordingly—well, it is seen quite differently. That's what was happening, you think; and what you thought or felt about it at the time seems laughable, jejune."
There were parts of the novel that seemed very heavy with introspection, and the feelings evoked sometimes weighed me down. But then I moved on to the richly textured parts during which Kate arrives at her realizations. Definitely recommended for anyone who loves following a woman's journey toward finding herself. Five stars.