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The Beach Hut tells the story of the visitors to a line of beach huts in the fictional seaside village of Everdene in North Devon. Lots of different interlocking stories are told here as people gather here from all over the country for a variety of reasons.
It initially starts with Jane, who through financial turmoil is forced to sell the Beach Hut which has been in her family for 50 years. Before selling it however, she has plans for one last summer there with her children and grandchildren. However it also flashed back in time to when staying there as a late teenager and her encounter with a famous author changed her forever.
Her children and grandchildren are also facing their own turmoils there including crumbling marriages, infidelities and first loves.
We also meet Liam who is the best man for his friend Dan who is getting married at Everdene, firstly at the stag do and later at the wedding. During these periods Liam becomes entangled with the stories of shamed mother and alcoholic Fiona and broody and heartbroken professional Helena.
There are also shorter stories involving bored and misunderstood Sarah who is planning to use her husband's newly purchased beach hut for her own infidelity, elderly widow who wants to use the hut as a way of saying a final goodbye to her musician husband and most touchingly and heartbreakingly the story of Janet who has brought her grown-up son, Alan, who has learning difficulties, to the beach in order for him to compete in the sandcastle competition which has become the highlight of his year.
At the back of the book is an additional, but I would argue unnecessary , section on the history of beach huts with a suggested reading list as well as some recommended recipes.
I have to say that I really enjoyed this book, almost devouring it in one sitting. Henry has a really engaging way of writing. The characters, regardless of whether they are likeable or not, are really compelling. Her characterisation is so good that even the shorter stories remain convincing. The way that they weave in-and-out of each others lives is surprisingly convincing and works really well as a tool for keeping the reader engaged. It is never done in a confusing or contrived way.
The idea of making some stories shorter than others with Jane's family largely being at the core of it is a really interesting approach and works well within the confines of this novel. It keeps what could be quite a hackneyed and contrived starting point fresh and interesting throughout.
There are moments of genuine surprise and tension and it never feels petty or frivolous despite the fact that it obviously is not meant to be a heavy read. The way that it powers through the story makes it so easy to lose track of time, I know that I did.
There are some genuinely moving and touching moments which catch you unawares and these are handled in a believable and unsentimental way.
Henry is obviously a very accomplished writer, the structure of this book is really effective in getting you engrossed quickly.
In conclusion, I would highly recommend this book - it is presented in quite an understated way and is not necessarily one that I would have particularly noticed but what lies within is very surprisingly and it is definitely one of the best books that I have read this year.
Jane Milton's beach hut, also known as 'The Shack' has been in her family for many generations, but when her husband dies and leaves her with huge debts, she knows she has no choice but to finally sell the hut and make a bit of money to live on. She's worried about the reaction of her 3 sons, but more about leaving the glorious beaches of Everdene for good after one summer party. As summer descends on Everdere once more, the residents of the huts flock to the beach for a few days peace, but some end up with more than ever bargained for. For Roy, the man who has helped look after the beach huts since he was a little lad, he's extremely sad to hear that Jane might be leaving for good. Are a few beach goers going to get more than they bargained for this summer?
I've been a fan of Veronica Henry's work for a few years so when I was sent an early copy of her latest book, The Beach Hut, for review I was really thrilled because I knew it would be great .This book, however, is a little different to her traditional books I've read in the past. It seems almost like a short story collection as each of the chapters is pretty much a stand-alone story, yet they are woven together to create a fantastic tale of Everdene and its residents for a few weeks of the year. I actually sent the book to my mum before I read it myself as she's a huge fan and she told me it was brilliant, and typically for my mum, she wasn't wrong!
The book begins with Roy, the resident of Everdene who has been looking after the Beach Huts for many years and knows not only the huts, but the residents of them too. Roy's clearly got feelings for Jane, and I love how this story develops as the book progresses, it's very touching and is such a sweet story. As we get to know Roy and Jane, and the tale of their childhood friendship, things become clearer and then the book moves on in another direction, following Jane in her current life juggling her finances, family and expectations. I was hooked by the end of the first chapter, and I knew then it'd be a book I wouldn't want to put down.
The book then begins to tell the stories of the owners and residents of the beach huts for each chapter. I think the chapter names were the name of the beach huts themselves which I think is a lovely touch, and certainly made it good to try and decipher which sort of people would have a beach hut with that name! I was sure that each story would be stand-alone and only linked by the fact each of the huts were on the same beach but it soon became clear that it was going to be slightly more than that, and that they were all going to be more intrinsically linked than I had initially thought, and I couldn't wait to see how that was going to become the case.
Jane Milton and her family story was the one that kept running through the book due to the other stories of her children and their relationships too, and it was interesting how it kept coming back to them. I also really enjoyed the story of the young engaged couple Dan and Kirsty which was a very sweet read, and I love how Henry included a mother with a child with disabilities, and it showed a different side that we would usually see, from the mother's perspective and it was a quite gritty perspective compared to the rest of the book. However, I liked this inclusion in the story, especially when the other side of this particular story was shown from another resident's point of view.
The book was incredibly readable and I loved every page. Thanks to the individual chapters, it was quite easy to put the book down and pick it up again from where we left off, but to be honest, I didn't want to stop reading because I was so curious to see whose story was going to turn up next! I love how all the stories connected together, even in the smallest way that could have been mentioned in passing, but it made such a difference overall as it felt like everything was tied up by the end. Roy and Jane's story was by far my favourite, but I loved the whole book and cannot recommend it highly enough, in fact it may well be my read of the summer so far. Simply brilliant.
ISBN: 978-1409119951. Published by Orion in July 2010. Pages: 400. RRP: £6.99.
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review for http://chicklitreviews.com
Thank you for reading.
- - THE PLOT - -
The beach hut is the story of a group of people who choose to spend their summers on the beach at Everdene, a seemingly tranquil if busy beach in Devon.
The families who spend their summers at Everdene have become friends over the years and the story shows just how their lives have intertwined, and how the place seems to have worked its way into the lives of each and every member of the various families.
Life is good and the living is easy at Everdene but that's because it's an escape for most of those who come there to the pretty coloured beach huts for their summer get aways.
There's gorgeous young Harry, who on the brink of manhood feels the flush of first love when he finds himself falling for a very much grown up and changed Florence. Dan and Kirsty who have returned to Everdene to get married, but is it going to be all plain sailing or will the waves rock their happy relationship?
And last but not least the matriarch of the Milton household Jane Milton who has been forced to put her much love family beach house up for sale after the death of her husband left her with nothing but debt. Is there any way she can find the money to save the beach hut that has always been a place for her family to escape?
Is Everdene really the happy go lucky safe haven everyone believes? Or is it just a place for people who are running from their problems to escape for a short while?
Grab the keys to the beach hut and find out for yourself....
- - OPINION - -
As a girl who has grown up spending time at the beaches of North Devon with both family and friends, as well as living in Woolacombe for a year I absolutely fell in love with this novel. It brought back so many happy memories for me of times when nothing mattered other than what bikini I was going to wear that day or what the surf was looking like!
Veronica Henry isn't someone I had heard of and I wrongly assumed this was her debut novel, it isn't she has been the author of four other books as well as a series of three novels called The Honeycote Novels and I for one will be going to search out some of her others.
I am sometimes dubious of author's who write their stories from the perspective of a lot of people and in this novel it bothered me a little in the first chapter but as I went through the book I found that although each chapter tells the story of a different family and occupants of different beach huts the chapters flow easily into each other to show the story of the families living together at Everdene.
The back story of Jane Milton really made me smile, it's a story of true love but also friendship that at times was terribly sad but in the end I found myself routing for her to find true happiness with the one man who really fits with her. I found the character really engaging and one that I wanted to read more and more about to find out what happens to her in the end.
Henry has a fantastic way of writing characters that I could really relate to, people who on the surface seem to be happy but are running to Everdene to a little bit of escape from their real lives.
What was also a fantastic touch was in the back of this book Veronica Henry has included what she calls her beach holiday extras which were a cute little surprise you shouldn't miss... these include some cocktail recipes, her recommended beach reads and a gorgeous sounding recipe for Crab and Sweetcorn chowder which I am definitely going to try out. Amongst a few others, so if you do grab a copy of this book don't flick past these little extras at the end of the story.
Anyone who is wanting a beach read for their holidays or for anyone who spent their summer holidays enjoying the rock pools and beaches of a English beach and fancies a trip back in time that will make you smile then definitely check out The beach Hut, it's well worth a read.
ISBN - 9781409119951
PRICE - £6.99
PAGES - 373
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