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I do like it when I discover a new author whose work I enjoy. Even better when I find that her books are all different, yet very appealing. This is my impression, so far, of Jojo Moyes, an English writer who has several published titles. I am slowly collecting them.
SILVER BAY - OVERVIEW
Liza and her daughter Hannah live with Liza's Aunt Kathleen, at a small beach hotel in Australia. It's a popular location for tourists - in a low-key kind of way - for observing whales and dolphins. Local staff take visitors out on boats in the hope of seeing something special. Unfortunately, there's starting to be a worrying tendency to attract noisy boats that scare away the marine life.
We quickly learn that there is some mystery about Liza's past. She suffered immense heartbreak shortly before arriving at Kathleen's, and we soon discover, in general terms, what that was about, although the details only emerge slowly. But even this trauma does not quite explain why Liza is so very protective about Hannah; she doesn't want her to learn to swim, nor does she allow her to go out on the boats - although Hannah regularly stows away and shows that she is quite mature enough to sail.
Then one day a smartly suited man from England arrives in the bay. Mike is uncomfortable at first, feeling out of place. He quickly makes friends with Hannah, and is quite taken with Liza. But he also attracts some bad feeling, particularly when the locals discover just why he's there...
SILVER BAY - OPINION
'Silver Bay' is written from several different perspectives. It's a technique that works well, giving a bit of background to each of the main characters, letting us see inside their heads for a while, and enabling us to understand something of their motivation. The characterisation is very good; I found myself becoming quite fond of Hannah, and also of Kathleen, although for some reason it was harder to be sympathetic with Liza despite the trauma she suffered in the past.
If I have a criticism of this book, it's that it was quite slow moving in the early chapters. I only usually read in the evenings, and it took me quite some time to get into this book. Perhaps it's that my ecological tendencies are mostly theoretical, as far as the sea goes. While I don't wish to see harm done to any creatures, I don't actually have any interest at all in marine life boats, and a lot of the early part of the story was woven around these themes.
Other parts of the story involved business ventures - we meet the English businessman Mike on his home territory before he arrives in Silver Bay - and there are scenes with attempts to manipulate investors... again, this kind of thing does not interest me, and I found myself skimming those scenes, even while realising that they were going to be important to the storyline.
Yet, somehow, very gradually, I found myself drawn into the lives of this small community. As Mike started to relax, and found that he was beginning to be accepted, so I found myself caring more about these people and their everyday lives. By the time I was around half way through the book, I was hooked. When, out of the blue, there's a major crisis scene, I was totally gripped, almost unable to put the book down. Then, when we finally learn the full details of Liza's past trauma, I had tears in my eyes. Even more so later on...
Jojo Moyes has a great writing style that drew me in, kept me reading, and made me believe in the story, even at the end when - if I'm entirely honest - reality felt a little suspended, although it led to a most satisfactory conclusion. Things came together just a bit too tidily for real life, but by then I didn't care. I like a happy ending, even if it doesn't reflect typical what would probably have happened had the story been true.
All in all, I liked this very much and immediately put a couple more of this author's books on my wishlist.
'Silver Bay' can be found on Amazon UK for £3.85 currently, or about 20p cheaper for the Kindle edition.
[Note: Review slightly amended from one I originally wrote for my book blog, suesbookreviews.blogspot.com Also on Ciao]