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I really enjoyed "The Beach Café" by Lucy Diamond earlier this year, so when I was looking for some easy reading chick-lit recently I thought I'd give another of her books a try.
The story revolves around two sisters, Polly and Clare, who couldn't be more different. Polly has always been the high flying successful business-woman who has spent years climbing the career ladder and enjoying her party lifestyle in London. Clare, on the other hand, is recently divorced, and lives in a cottage in her home village with her two children, struggling to make ends meet. When Polly is made redundant, her world comes crashing down, and she finds herself heading to her hometown and ends up living with Clare whilst her flat is put on the market. It's the first time in years the sisters have spent any proper time together, and at first sparks fly. Polly bumps into an old flame, Clare's luck is about to change, and they both feel guilty over a family secret which happened years ago. Will this summer bring these sisters any closer, or drive them further apart?
I'll start by saying that I absolutely loved this book. I wasn't sure at first if I'd made a mistake choosing a book which seemed to have a summer theme, just as we are heading into autumn, because I like to match my reading to the seasons, but I can't say the fact it's based in summer was rammed down the reader's throat particularly, other than the odd reference.
Although I chose this book because I was after some light, easy reading, I did feel that as far as chick-lit goes, this did have a little more depth to it than most, as we are also introduced to a serious family tragedy which happened years ago, but still affects the lives of the characters. This makes the characters much easier to relate to. Even Polly who at first seems stuck-up, superficial, and the kind of character the reader is supposed to hate, becomes more understandable as we delve into her past and discover the reasons behind her insecurities.
The book is written in third person, which I liked because it doesn't encourage the reader to "take sides" with either of the sisters, and we get an insight into what they are both thinking and feeling. This is really interesting to read, as it provides great insight into human relationships and how easy it is to let relationships deteriorate through lack of understanding, support, and effort. The style of writing is really enjoyable, with enough detail provided to spark the reader's imagination, but not so much that you're left trying to decipher what's going on. I thought the author did a wonderful job of depicting village life, and creating an atmosphere that allows the reader to imagine exactly what life is like in a small village.
Although the book revolves around the two sisters, and these are the characters we get to know the most, there are some excellent peripheral characters who add various elements to this book and help bring the story to life. Polly and Clare are both stereotypes of their own characters, and it's very easy for the reader to make judgements about them from the outset. As the book develops, however, and we see a more vulnerable side to Polly, and Clare becomes less resentful towards Polly, we begin to see different sides to these characters, and realise they are in fact, like most people, multi-dimensional personality-wise.
Other characters who bring something to the book include the girls' parents, and although we never really get to know them that well, the author creates a vivid image of their retired lifestyle and their caring relationship, and this makes them very likeable from the outset. They reminded me of my own parents, with the occasional bickering but deep down they'd do anything for each other and wouldn't part for the world. There are other characters I won't reveal as that could be seen as a spoiler, but some examples of other characters include Clare's eccentric neighbour, her live-for-the-minute work colleague, and Polly's old flame, alongside Clare's children of course. I found the characters to be believable and true-to-life.
The book is well paced, and I found myself getting absorbed in the storyline very quickly. There is nothing ground-breaking about the premise of this novel, nor the outcome, but it is such a lovely read I found myself eager to read on to find out what was going to happen next. At times, there isn't much happening plot-wise, as we get to know the characters, but this doesn't seem to matter as it all adds to the general atmosphere and character development. Then, just when things could potentially start getting stale, the plot moves on and engages the reader's attention.
I really enjoyed this book, and although the outcome was highly predictable, I found the book to be heart-warming and a really absorbing read. It's also very easy reading, as we're only really concerned with the two main characters, so it's not one you have to concentrate too hard on to avoid losing track. Definitely recommend this one if you like your chick-lit.
(Review may also appear on Ciao under the username Gingerkitty)