RATING: VERY GOOD
I finished the book already, and I loved it. The different stories are lovely.
The main characters are clearly Jane Milton, her family, and Roy. The next character we get to know is Harry, Jane’s grandson and Serena’s son. He gets a crush on Florence, a beach hut neighbour, who he had always thought of as dull, but when he sees her this summer, she has grown into a beautiful woman. They start hanging out; Harry is smitten with him, and even though she wants to have sex with him, he wants their first time to be special. So the next day she books a room in the B&B and even orders flowers and champagne. They are the couple who win the sandcastle competition, and the reason is because she flirts with the jury, a minor musician. Harry thinks that it is unfair for Alan, and then when Florence insists on going to the club, the musician is there, and with a heavy heart Harry sees them together, skin to skin, so she leaves.
Harry is staying with her grandmother Jane, and the following day Jane feels sorry after guessing what has happened with Florence. For the first time Jane tells the story of her affair with Terence Shaw and how she was heartbreaking, telling Harry that with time he will see things in a different light. Harry doesn’t see Florence until the end of the summer when the Miltons give their traditional end-of-the summer party, and she is not so enticing to him. Her story with the musician busted, and she didn’t even get the grades for university, so she is quite gloomy. Harry tries to be sympathetic, but he doesn’t care about her any longer.
This is not the only turmoil in Harry’s life. His mother, Serena, and his uncle Adrian have been having an affair for a year… their friendship turned into something else, but they refrained from doing anything other than kissing. Serena has been miserable in her marriage as Philip is a bully, cheating on her with a string of students over the years. We know that Adrian has always been besotted with Serena, but she was always his brother’s wife, so that was a pipe dream. Now he and Serena decide to tell Philip and Jane respectively. Jane reacts with mixed feelings as Philip is also her son, but at the same time, she knows what Serena has gone through because Graham, her husband, was the same. Things don’t go so well when Serena tells Philip, who swears to make her life hell in the divorce, and then he ups and goes. This is the last time Philip sets foot in Everdene. Serena and Adrian are to move in together, and Jane reflects that it will be a good thing for Spike, Adrian’s son, since Serena has always been good to him. As for Serena’s children, they are not too shocked as they knew what their father is like. Amelia decides to move with her mother, and Harry is going to university in Bristol, which will be close to his mother.
Jane also has some news. Her lawyer calls her to tell her that Terence Hall has died, so she goes to London to his funeral. Then when she is in the church, his daughter comes to the plinth to talk about her father, and then she mentions the reading of his will, and in a angry tone she asks who the hell is Jane Milton. Jane is shocked and when the funeral is over, the lawyer tells her that Terence has left her the rights for the book whose manuscript she gave Terence recently. The family intends to contest the will, but the lawyer tells Jane that their claim doesn’t have a leg to stand on. With the book the press will want to know the story behind it, and that will mean more money. Jane considers what she should do, but she tells herself that this is is like pay time for the life she felt Terence ruined.
The money would mean that she can keep the hut, but after much thinking, Jane realises that things are not the same any longer. Her family has broken up with Serena and Adrian getting together, and the children are growing up and having their own lives soon. So she calls Norman, the lawyer, and chooses who to sell the hut to.
While Jane has been away in London, Roy has been thinking about the past, the kiss that he and Jane shared so long ago, and how she stopped it suddenly and left. Roy has always been in love with her, and back then he was ready to leave Marie, the girl who he was dating as he realised that he wasn’t feeling the same as he felt for Jane. He was even thinking about finding his way into London, but then Marie came to him one day. She was pregnant, so they got married. They had two daughters, and Roy admits that they had a good life. Maybe Marie wasn’t the love of his life, but she was a good companion until she died. Over the years Jane became a good friend as he helped her whenever she came to the hut every summer.
Now as she picks her up from the station after the funeral, he offers to cook for her before leaving her in the hut. In his house Jane sees some brochures, and he tells her that he might go on a cruise. Then Jane thinks about being away while the news about the book and the story behind it is hot in the press, so she asks him if he would like to have a travelling companion. We don’t know what happens but we imagine that he says so, and maybe there is a possibility for what wasn’t in the past.
Apart from this, we get to know more characters. Liam, the young man who was in the stag night and slept with Fiona, is back for the wedding of his best friend Dan and his fiancée Kirsty. Something happened during the stag night a couple of weeks ago between Dan and the maid of honour Jenna. Jenna is Kirsty’s best friend, and just hours before the wedding she comes to Kirsty and tells her that she and Dan slept together that night. Kirsty is a very calm woman in all respects, and even though she is trembling inside, she manages to keep calm, and goes to the beach to think. Outside she calls Liam, and when he goes to see her, she tells him what Jenna has told her. Liam curses Jenna inwardly as he tells Kirstythat Dan really loves her and they were all too drunk to know what they were doing. Kirsty doesn’t know what to do, but she wonders how she can go through with the wedding, knowing her husband-to-be has cheated on her. Then when she and Liam return to the hotel, they run into Jenna, who finally confesses that nothing happened between her and Liam that night. It is true that she tried, sat on his lap and even kissed her, but it was all her doing, and then she crashed in his tent, but nothing happened. She later confesses to Liam that she really loves Dan and she feels wretched as Kirsty has everything. In the end, Kirsty and Dan get married, and Jenna is left alone and miserable. I feel sorry for Jenna, but if she was alone, she has only herself to blame because resorting to deceit is not the way to show her love to the man who she apparently is in love with.
Liam appears again as he meets another woman, Helena Dickinson. Helena is going through a bad patch as her boyfriend of eight years left her when she was already taking folic acid and try to become pregnant. Helena is forty-one and she knows she can’t wait too much to become a mother. So she decides that she will choose a random guy and get pregnant. So she hires a beach hut, and in the club she meets Liam, who she thinks is perfect. They talk and she invites him to her hut, but when she makes the moves, he stops her. Liam is still feeling bad about Fiona and how he acted with her, and now he wants to clean his act. Helena is disappointed and upset, and Liam leaves. Yet, early the next day Helena is woken by a knock on her door. It is Liam, offering to teach her how to surf, which is something they had talked about the previous night. They have a lovely time, riding the waves, and at the end of the book we learn that they are together.
Other characters are Marissa Miller, a woman who lost her husband recently. Her husband, Ludo, was a famous music conductor, and they had a lovely life together. Ludo had a stroke which left him without the ability to talk or speak, and then when another stroke hit him, he passed away. Now Marissa came to Everdene, where she and Ludo spent every year and were so happy. For a moment we think that Marissa misses him so much that he is considering suicide, and the hotel manager thinks so, and as he runs to find her, he realises that Marisa simply was throwing Ludo’s ashes into the sea where he had been so happy.
Another set of characters are Alison and Mike, a married couple who have adopted seven-year-old Chayenne. The girl has gone through a lot as her mother, who was bipolar, neglected her in all senses. Now they have hired a hut on the beach, but Alison is not happy. She wants to bond with Chayenne, but so far the girl only turns to Mike, and all her efforts she makes with Chayenne are a disappointment. Mike tells her she needs to be patient, but Alison doesn’t know if she and Chayenne will ever be close. Then when she is looking after her on her own, she falls asleep on the deck chair, and when Mike wakes her, Chayenne is nowhere to be soon. Fortunately, David Milton is running on the beach and sees the girl perched on a rock too close to the sea, and he gets her. When he asks her, the girl says she wants to go to her mum, and David asks her what her mother’s name is, and Chayenne says it is Alison. When David takes Chayenne to Alison, the girl holds out her hands to her and as Alison wraps her in her arms, the girl says ‘Mummy’, and Alison thinks this is the loveliest sound she has ever heard, and tells the girl how much she loves her. I found this story so moving. I felt sorry for Alison, and the end with her and Chayenne was just perfect. It is a shame that we didn’t get to see them again.
The end of the novel is the end-of-the-summer party. We get to see the characters from the beginning: Sarah and Fiona. Sarah is not happy as living with Ian has become a torture. He is depressed because of the redundancy, and he refuses to go out. Sarah has never missed the end-of-the-summer party, but Ian refuses to go with her, so she takes the girls down to the beach, and she even decides to spoil them and themselves, buying new dresses. When she is ready to leave for the party, Oliver Bishop appears all of a sudden. He tells her that he saw Ian with the Johnsons, drinking and letting his hair down. Sarah is astonished that after all her efforts to make him go out, he has only done so when she is not around. Then Oliver tells her that he has come because he can’t stop thinking about her. It is a lovely declaration, which Sarah takes with a pinch of salt, but he sounds honest, and when he volunteers to go with him to the party, she agrees on condition that it is all wholesome as she has the girls to think about. We don’t know what happens between them, but it is clear that Sarah’s marriage won’t survive Ian’s redundancy, his moods, and Oliver’s seduction.
As for Fiona, we learn that she confesses everything to Tim, her husband, and despite his attitude before, he is great with her. They find a counsellor, and Fiona gets the help she needs to go over her problem. She hasn’t drunk in months, her marriage is back on track, and now she is ready to face the first real test… a party where booze will be around it.
The epilogue of the novel takes us to October. Kirsty and Dan are back in Evergrene to celebrate Kirsty’s birthday. They both had a good surprise. It is Dan who bought the Shack, Jane’s hut, for Kirsty, and she gives him good news: she is pregnant!
A lovely book. I love the different stories and how they intermingle so nicely in the novel.