It is the story which came into my head – no more, no less.
My main characters are children and horses, but I describe A Summer Break as Family Fiction because it's not specifically aimed at children; also, it's quite long. I like to think that young people, while enjoying this adventurous tale, will appreciate its rhythms, alliterations, and word-play.
For some readers, this book will most memorably be about horse-riding tomboys having cracking adventures - or, you could say, admirable horses taking daring tomboys on difficult rides. Others will appreciate how characters help each other overcome personal losses. Some folk will insist - as would they - that the story revolves around three cats and a dog... Whatever their viewpoint, surely every reader will agree that A Summer Break is an hommage to the Pembrokeshire coast.
I hope you'll enjoy A Summer Break, and encourage like-minded friends to read it: surely, the best recommendation. Of course, it helps if a book looks good - and I must say that Gomer Press, Llandysul, who printed A Summer Break, did a fantastic job.
To see samples of the book's illustrations, please visit the Picture Gallery.
The book's setting
The action of the novel takes place on an imagined stretch of the Saint Brides Bay coast, Pembrokeshire; to see live views, search for webcams at Broad Haven or Newgale.
"A wholly enjoyable read: I had to keep on going, to know what happened next!"
"I am reminded of the Chinese proverb: Poetry is painting with words, and painting is soundless poetry."
"I much enjoyed the descriptions of sea and countryside, and became really involved with the characters."
"Such a memorable tale."
"A story of self-discovery which celebrates the healing power of the natural world, told with a compelling, poetic and original use of language"
From Marlowes at Newgale to The Pirates of Thorn Island, Pembrokeshire has been the setting for many a children’s adventure book. Joining that list we now have A Summer Break, an ambitious 400-page novel by Christopher Jessop, an independent energy consultant who lives in Marloes where he is also a community councillor.
In it he rather bravely adopts the persona of a young girl called Sophy, who, in the best Enid Blyton/Arthur Ransome tradition, is sent away on holiday to stay with relatives who live on the Pembrokeshire coast.
Wisely the author has set his tale in 1980, before mobile telephones made communications far too easy for proper adventures and before health and safety considerations largely put an end to the kind of hair-raising scrapes that Sophy tends to get involved in. Many of these involve boats and horses – the ponies are fully-formed central characters in this book, and also the wild Pembrokeshire weather. The landscape is also identifiably West Pembrokeshire – although several of the names have been changed. For example there is a handy US air base with Sea King helicopters ready to fly to the rescue, and the anthracite-mining history of the area is a rich seam that runs throughout. Amusingly the author has also purloined the names of local villages for some of his large cast of characters, so that we meet Mrs Haroldston, Robert Hoaten, Farmer Solva and even Dr Clom.
The narrative pace is sustained admirably throughout the sequence of adventures, and Sophy is an appealing heroine with the right blend of vulnerability and tomboy courage. The author is also a poet, and how much you enjoy the book may depend on how much you enjoy passages such as: “The third meadow draped a ridge, then they were gated into a bosky steep descent, agreeably hummed by bees.” This might not be the sort of writing you find in Swallows and Amazons, but in this particular book it seems to work.
Keith Johnson PEMBROKESHIRE LIFE, June 2014
I read this book by local author Chris Jessop just a few weeks ago, and want to share with others the lasting impression it has left.
It took me several pages to tune into the cadence of the sentences and the creative use of new composite words. I was glad that I carried on reading for, as I did, the story began to draw me in and I became aware of the power and the poetry of the author’s use of language. What could have been just a good story became a much more special experience.
It is indeed a very good story, sometimes sad, often happy with an unexpected exciting ending. It is about childhood and about the adults and animals that are part of the children’s lives. The characters are well drawn and really come to life and it is set in the beautiful but sometimes fragile setting of the Pembrokeshire country and coast. I'm sure that this book can be enjoyed on many different levels by adults and children alike.
READER BEWARE! The story itself and the beauty of the writing could mean you cannot put it down. Then, like me, you could find yourself reading the last page just as the sun is rising on a new day.
Jean Lewis PENINSULA PAPERS, September 2014