A Summer Place

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This article is about the novel. For the film based on it, see A Summer Place (film).
A Summer Place
First edition
Author Sloan Wilson
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Simon & Schuster[1]
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 369 pp.(first edition)[1]
Preceded by The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit

A Summer Place is a 1958 novel by Sloan Wilson, a follow-on to The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. It was adapted into a 1959 film of the same name.

Plot summary[edit]

The book focuses on the adult lives of two onetime teenage lovers, Ken and Sylvia, who were from different social strata. Ken was self-supporting, working as a lifeguard at a Maine island resort, while Sylvia's family stayed as guests of the owners, one summer between years at college. After their summer love affair, they married other people, but rediscover each other later in life. At that time, Sylvia has a son, Johnny, and Ken a daughter, Molly. While Ken and Sylvia renew their love affair, their children begin a romance.

Ken becomes a millionaire through his work as a research chemist as his wife Helen spurns him at home, while Sylvia's husband Bart turns to alcohol as his family fortune disappears, and he turns their island home into an inn. After twenty years away, Ken decides to visit the island again, writing Bart to ask for lodging. Ken brings Molly and Helen to the island, and everyone tries to be cordial. But soon old feelings, and tensions, and longings arise in the adults, while the young Johnny and Molly in turn become enamored of each other.

Ken and Sylvia fall in love once again. The couple are noticed by Todd Hasper, the steward of the island, who decides to inform Sylvia's husband Bart. Ken, aware of Sylvia's plight, invites her and her family to take over a motel job in Florida for Bart has asked for a divorce and the custody of their son John. The affair between Ken and Sylvia is again noticed, this time by a friend of Helen's. The two divorce, and their daughter Molly, like John, is sent to boarding school.

During their tenure at their respective schools, John and Molly begin an avid correspondence. Helen and her mother Margaret are not pleased, as they find it inappropriate for a girl her age to be so attached to a boy. Their correspondence continues, with rendezvous during school breaks. Their romance culminates when they see each other again at Ken and Sylvia's beach house. The two acknowledge that they are in love with one another, and they consummate it shortly thereafter.

Back at school, Molly learns from a doctor that she is pregnant, and John hitchhikes across the country to be with and support her. Ken and Sylvia give their guarded approval, feeling hypocritical to deny them their love. Bart, whose alcoholism has landed him in a veterans hospital, cannot attend the wedding, and while he disapproves, he urges John to take over the inn. Helen attends the wedding under sedation. The book ends with John and Molly spending their honeymoon on Pine Island, John's "one good inheritance", as Bart terms it in a letter.

Publishing arrangements[edit]

According to Time magazine, the financial terms accompanying the publication of A Summer Place were unusual:[1]

  • royalties were "above the 15% top writers receive", with income spread out for tax purposes at $25,000 a year or more;
  • the pre-publication order was for nearly 50,000 copies at a $4.50 list price;
  • an intermediary called Ridge Press negotiated with Simon & Schuster and other parties for rights to the novel;
  • Ridge Press kept full film and television rights, denying the publisher its typical 10% cut;
  • McCall's paid Ridge Press $100,000 for serialization rights;
  • The film rights were sold for $500,000 plus 25% of the profits.


Both the book and the 1959 movie based on it were controversial in the late 1950s, at a time when divorce, adultery and teenage sexuality were taboo subjects.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c "Typewriter Tycoon". Time. April 14, 1958. Retrieved 2011-08-10.