April 18, 2015 by Lydia Syson

Please follow links for full reviews (where available):

Linda Newbery wrote in Armadillo (Editor’s Choice):

‘Lydia Syson is the kind of writer who lets you know from the outset that you’re in safe hands…Like my last Editor’s Choice, Elizabeth Wein’s Rose Under Fire, this is an unusual angle on the Second World War and a excellent addition to the range of fiction available for teenagers.’

Nicholas Tucker in The Independent (‘Best Books of 2013’) wrote:

‘…the final resolution lives up to this story’s consistent excellence. This is only the second novel from an author very much to look out for.’

Suzi Feay in the Financial Times wrote:

‘During the Battle of Britain, fighters zigzagged across the wide skies above Romney Marsh in Kent and planes that crashed were engulfed almost immediately, along with their pilots.  When Henryk, a Polish pilot, bails out over the marshes he is discovered by teenage Peggy, who is immediately drawn to him.  Terrified of having to return to his flying duties, he hides with her help.

That Burning Summer is Lydia Syson’s second novel and her great strength is characterisation.  Peggy’s mean aunt and shrewd but kindly uncle, her ebullient cousin and most of all her pesky but lovable 11-year-old brother Ernest are vividly drawn.  Ernest is obsessed with government instructions about how to spot spies.  Add to the mix a local bully, spiteful anonymous letters and the ready availability of guns, and the scene seems set for inevitable tragedy.

A touching evocation of a desperate wartime romance, which evokes a vanished era of hardship and fortitude.’

We Love This Book wrote:

‘Unearthing aspects of the Second World War that teenagers are unlikely to cover in schools, a wealth of history is entwined with the story of one family and a seemingly impossible romance…That Burning Summer is a refreshingly different war story, focussing as it does on the rarely mentioned Polish allies who joined the war effort, fighting for Britain as they were unable to help from occupied Poland. Henryk’s slowly revealed past is fascinating, as is the exploration of pacifism at home and the effects of the aerial dogfights on pilots. But it is Syson’s beautifully developed characters that make the history come vividly to life.’

Booktrust wrote:

‘Lydia Syson follows the successful A World Between Us with another engrossing historical novel. That Burning Summer is a very different sort of World War II story, set on the Home Front and providing an intriguing insight into the rarely-mentioned role of Britain’s Polish allies in the war effort.  Beautifully evoking the atmosphere of a small rural community under threat, it simmers with tension and intensity: readers will be rooting for Peggy and Henryk and captivated by their blossoming romance.’ Read more

Teach Secondary magazine wrote:

‘In ‘A World Between Us’, her first award-shortlisted historic novel for teenagers, Lydia Syson proved she could tackle human dramas played out against vast historic panoramas. Here, she is equally assured portraying the claustrophobia of life in a tight-knit, increasingly regulated and selfpolicing community at that pivotal moment in the summer of 1940 when phoney war began to become very real indeed. The mysterious landscape of Romney Marsh is as intensely vivid a character as the novel’s protagonists: awkward younger brother Ernest, Peggy, his adolescent sister, and psychologically damaged Polish pilot, Henryk. The burgeoning romance between the girl and the older, vulnerable man is beautifully and unsentimentally handled; this is a great novel for all those who like their history free of cliché, and who value human experience observed with non-judgmental clarity.’

The Guardian Children’s Books site wrote:

‘…not once did I want to put the book down…A beautiful, enchanting and memorable book which captured war perfectly and hooked me within its pages.’ Read more

New Welsh Review wrote:

‘(B)oth her novels are a fantastic introduction to the era in which they are set…The characters themselves are well developed and interesting, and the way the reader is shown World War II from the eyes of a young boy, a teen and a pilot was wonderful for its different perspectives…I think adults would enjoy it as well as teenagers. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.’ Read more 

The Overflowing Library wrote:

‘Another fab read from Lydia Syson. I must admit I love Lydia’s work purely because it speaks to me as a history teacher. Her stories are engaging and exciting as well being well researched and historically accurate. I love that I can happily recommend them to my students without any worries that they might get completely wrong ideas about the time we are studying.’ Read more

An Awfully Big Blog Adventure Reviews wrote:

‘Set during the Battle of Britain, this book deals not with the undoubted heroism of the Few – the pilots and crew of the RAF – but with those who, for one reason or another, came to to the decision that they could not take an active part in fighting the war…unusual territory for a book about the Second World War…But as well as all this, That Burning Summer is a tender coming of age and love story. It’s excellent – do read it!’ Read more

The Historical Novels Review wrote:

‘Syson’s research is thorough but she blends it perfectly into the story. Her characters live and breathe on the page as they struggle to understand the complexities of cowardice and courage, loyalty and love.’ Read more

Authors Electric wrote:

‘There are no easy answers in That Burning Summer — as there were none in the summer of 1940. There is however plenty of unpretentiously excellent and varied writing and a kindliness in the characterizations that make it a thoroughly enjoyable read as well as an admirable piece of historical re-creation.’ Read more

Anna Scott Jots wrote:

‘As with her previous book, Syson’s writing takes a particular point and place in the past and opens it up in a way I don’t think I’ve come across in YA before. All the research and attention to detail is evident, yet it never feels like you’re sitting through a history lesson. Or maybe just like you’re experiencing the best history lesson ever…Not only does it make you think AND swoon, but there’s also does a rather good sideline in suspense too. Oh, and the cover’s ace as well. Seriously, what more could you want?’ Read more

We Sat Down tweeted: ‘an endearing, provocative and thrilling second novel’

‘Once again, Lydia Syson’s teen fiction marries the thought-provoking nitty gritties of wartime with a tone that is celebratory in its joie de vivre….’ Read more

Stepping Out Of the Page wrote:

‘I completely unashamedly fell for the gorgeous vintage-style cover of That Burning Summer before I knew what the book was even about (though the contents are portrayed pretty well on the cover, actually). I am so glad that That Burning Summer caught my eye.  After finding out it was set in England during World War Two, I picked it up and absolutely devoured it…it was just so lovely to read.’ Read more

Books & Writers Jnr wrote:

‘a second brilliant YA novel from one of my favourite historical fiction authors!…Lydia’s created yet more unforgettable characters that I enjoyed reading about so much…One word to describe this? Unputdownable. It was such a great read, that I’m definitely going to be recommending to anyone I know who likes historical fiction!’ Read more

Bridgeanne Art and Writing wrote:

‘I loved it because as well as being so fascinating in terms of its historical details, Lydia Syson’s writing itself is wonderful. Her characters are so well drawn and believable and at times with both [That Burning Summer and A World Between Us] it was almost unbearable waiting to see what was going to happen to them. Read more

Rye News wrote:

‘Lydia’s book…touches on a very nervous time in Britain’s history and the marsh has often been a scary place. Her heroine Peggy sees a parachute coming down and this changes her life forever. But to say more would be to give away the plot and spoil your enjoyment in reading this gripping tale. Lydia tells a detailed story of how life was here in 1940 (based on much research and talking to local people) which weaves together history, romance, courage and coming-of-age in a charming but engrossing way.’  Read more

Weaving Pages wrote:

‘Something I really enjoyed about this novel was its different perspective on the war…I really  loved seeing the point of view of those people who were just at home, or in the countryside during the war…It was something different, new and one of my favourite parts of the book.  However That Burning Summer also captured the emotional and psychological side of fighting in the war through the character of Henryk…It is worth reading because you end up with a lot more than you expected so do not be fooled by green grass and slow paced country life!’

A Day Dreamer’s World wrote:

‘That Burning Summer’ was an eye-opening book…that brought alive a captivating romance.’ Read more

Feed Me Books Now wrote:

‘…the critically-acclaimed Lydia Syson hasn’t let me down; she has created a worth reading novel, littered with beautiful description and dynamic dialogue…the author has captured the spirit of the time so perfectly… a picture of the location so vivid…That Burning Summer was a fascinating read.’ Read more

Chocolate Chunky Munkie wrote:

‘I will definitely read more books by this author as I love her writing style.’  Read more

These Lovereading reviewers wrote:

‘I absolutely adored this book…the combination of historical accuracy and romance made an amazing coming of age novel!’  Juliana Christianson, aged 14

‘a passionate, emotional and brave tale…with intricate characters and a deep plot, this book is perfect for all readers, especially lovers of romance and history.’ Safiyah Afghan, aged 15 

Recommended by YA Yeah Yeah:

‘I picked this up more because of the breathtaking cover than anything else, but ended up being impressed by the writing as well. It’s a World War II tale of a girl living on a farm who discovers a Polish airman who’s desperate to not go back to fighting, and hides him in a remote church. Characters are well-portrayed, particularly main couple Peggy and Henryk, and Peggy’s younger brother Ernest. Even more impressively (given my well-known feelings on quick-burning love stories), the romance between Peggy and Henryk feels completely believable and they make an excellent couple.’

Highlighted on the Huffington Post Blog:

‘a very different World War Two story to the usual ‘adventures for boys’ variety. The history of the role of Polish pilots in the Battle of Britain provides a tale of loyalty and love.’

Quicksand (Casey-Cardinia Library teen blog, Australia):

‘That Burning Summer is an outstanding novel which I would recommend to all teens.’


GoodReads sample review:

***** ‘It’s a given that Lydia Syson’s work will be full of period detail and atmosphere. What impresses me is the richness and complexity of her characters. A brilliant read.’


  1. […] already knew that I’d be talking to a group of girls who had read That Burning Summer in advance.  This always makes an author visit particularly rewarding:  it’s fantastic to be […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

“A mesmerising portrait of a family unravelling” THE TIMES (Best historical fiction in 2018)

“Powerful, intense and beautiful” HISTORICAL NOVEL REVIEW

“This tense, evocative, richly-imagined novel conjures the voices of a strange time and place, and makes them universal” EMMA DARWIN

“Syson brings history alive” THE OBSERVER

Search this site