Published: 4th June 2015
A seaside holiday at Shell Cottage in Devon has always been the perfect escape for the Tarrant family. Beach fun, barbecues and warm summer evenings with a cocktail or two – who could ask for more? But this year, everything has changed. Following her husband’s recent death, Olivia is struggling to pick up the pieces. Then she makes a shocking discovery that turns her world upside down. As a busy mum and GP, Freya’s used to having her hands full, but a bad day at work has put her career in jeopardy and now she’s really feeling the pressure. Harriet’s looking forward to a break with her lovely husband Robert and teenage daughter Molly. But unknown to Harriet, Robert is hiding a secret – and so, for that matter, is Molly…
For the first time in quite a while, I’m reviewing a book which I’ve bought myself. This doesn’t happen very often as I’m kindly sent a lot of books but when I spotted Lucy’s new read in WHSmith – I just couldn’t walk away empty handed and thankfully, I didn’t..
“Olivia, by contrast, tended to have a list of worries and what-ifs as long as her bridal train.”
The opening chapter of Summer At Shell Cottage covers a lot of time from a wedding to babies to grandchildren to losing your other half. I was instantly swept off my feet and into Lucy’s idyllic fictional world. The descriptions of Shell Cottage were absolutely stunning with the wide range of detail inviting readers in deeper. Olivia isn’t coping very well after her husbands recent death; their family holidays aren’t right without him and everyone feels the same. Freya is turning to the bottle for comfort and with her doctor status, she can’t afford to put it at risk. I really liked that Lucy included the mother/daughter/son relationship with Olivia and her two grown up children Freya and Robert; it added more comfort and familiarity to the plot. Harriet is married to a liar and she hasn’t got the faintest idea that he’s continually spinning a web of lies one after another. But what’s the big secret? As sympathetic as I was towards Harriet, I did want to discover the truth!
“If anything, a lonely secret miscarriage was a million times worse.”
Very quickly; Lucy has picked her characters up, shaken their lives upside down and placed them back into Shell Cottage. I wasn’t even 70 pages in and my mouth was already wide open from shock. Wow! As the narrative progressed, I found myself not trusting any of the male characters especially Robert and Victor. The way in which Lucy proceeded to write them was creepy and it seeped through the pages and into my imagination. It’s safe to say I didn’t like either of them. What I did really like was the wide range of point of view: everyone from the eldest character Olivia to one of her grandchildren Libby. It showcased Lucy’s utterly divine writing skills and captured her range of character voices.
“Oh you do make me laugh, Liv. I’m glad our paths crossed this Summer.”
The drama was really turned up a notch when the entire family gathered at Shell Cottage for the Summer; fireworks were going to be had. When Olivia broke the news to her children, everyone reacted in different ways as expected – some got blindly drunk and others just went for a walk. I like the fact that Lucy showed them taking in the news in different ways to prove that individuality is what makes us our own. The new character of Gloria brought so much light and laughter to a dark period in the narrative. She wasn’t Olivia’s first choice of friend, they were complete opposites but the two of them together worked wonders – it’s a friendship to be jealous of.
“…with everything coming back to Harriet and her face when the penny dropped. The bewilderment. The shock. And then, worst of all, the contempt.”
As the truth unfolded even more and lies became a reality, I found myself sinking into the plot a lot easier. At first, it took me a good way to get into the flow of the narrative but once everyone arrived at Shell Cottage, I found myself revolving my days around the book – I just couldn’t put it down. The way in which Lucy wrote Molly’s storyline was so bloody clever; you think it’s going to be one thing and then it’s like a giant fifteen year old slap in the face. It most definitely wasn’t the peaceful, stress free holiday that they’d all expected; in reality, it was very much the opposite!
“Spoiler alert: they’re all tossers at the end of the day.”
Summer At Shell Cottage was a dream to read. It flowed beautifully on the page and as Lucy’s wonderfully constructed narrative progressed, I found myself enjoying the crazy Tarrant family more and more. It is simply everything you would expect and much more from a delightful Summer book and after all, you can’t go wrong with Lucy Diamond.