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A few weeks ago I read my first novel by Sarah Diamond 'Cold Town' which I thought was very good. So I was keen to try another slice of her suspense novels, this time more sensibly I picked her debut book entitled 'The Beach Road', which I probably should have read first if the truth be known.
==Synopsis of the book:==
Jane is a fourteen-year-old girl who has had a difficult childhood so far. She is now moving to the seaside town of Underlyme in Dorset following her mother's recent suicide. There she will live with her Grandparents in their small house. Not only has her Childhood been hard but also she has had to deal with being bullied and loneliness of a girl who lacks confidence, belief to make friends easily. As a result she lives often in a dream world where she is not alone and she is happy.
Living in the Suburbs is Beverley Green, she is a year older than Jane and on the face of it she had everything that Jane lacks. A wealthy family, beautiful, clever and very popular at school with both boys and girls, she has the kind of life most would envy. However, is the grass always greener on the other side? Bev is also unhappy, her home life is sad and her parents' marriage is strained, with a father who believes by putting money on the table he can treat his family how he chooses and makes every mealtime tense and nervous for them all and Bev and her brother dread being at home with him.
Jane is enrolled in the local school where she quickly sees Bev in the corridor and wishes she could be like this 'golden girl' as for Jane she has the perfect life. Fate lends a hand as Bev finds she is bored with her old friends and following a horrific experience on holiday in Florida she wants people to stop questioning her about how she feels. An unlikely friendship starts to blossom between the two as both are looking for escape and they provide comfort for eachother.
==My thoughts on this novel:==
Put in its most simple, for me this was an outstanding debut novel. I was totally wrapped up in this story right from the start and really looked forward to each exciting chapter that I read. Although this is not the typical novel I would pick up, I was impressed by this author's other book, but this was far far better in my opinion. It was a wonderful read that gripped me for several nights and one I enjoyed because it was so well written. The author's style was easy to follow and I liked the way she moved the scenes around simultaneously so you get a picture what was happened to all the major characters at that particular point in time.
I have purposely told you very little in my synopsis other than the first two or three chapters, because I thought this novel had an awful lot of depth and to appreciate it you really have to read it. On balance I would definitely say this is the kind of story more sensitive readers will get more out of. As it deals a lot with emotions, feelings and how hard it is for teenage girls growing up in society today.
It was the type of book I just did not want to put down. It at times it brought out different emotions even in me, I felt happy when good things were happening to the characters, sad when bad things happened and even once or twice I felt like crying at what I read about. If you're looking for a fluffy happy story this one is not for you!! I have dressed it up quite positively in my review above but it is far from a happy story. For me it really made me think and brought home just how hard it is particularly for girls to live up to standards society selects from them and anyone who is not at that level is ostracizes and cruelly ridiculed or persecuted. I think I really got of lightly being a boy if school life is really as hard and unfair on girls as this story makes out.
However there were a few small things I thought would improve the book. The first was the introduction on the inside cover of it. It was a good size, being three paragraphs long, but I felt the author gave too much of the story away in it. Yes of course I understand you need to draw the reader in, but for me there was more than enough in the first two to three chapters to do that. The two lead characters were so different, with such different lifestyles and backgrounds, yet you still felt they shared something, secrets behind their lives. For me the summary did not need to go into their friendship and what was to follow as that for me was giving too much of the plot away.
My only other criticism really relates to Jane's story. I just thought given that this unfortunate young girl had found her mother having committed suicide in the bath, she would have received more support. I would have thought at least Counselling of some form would have been offered to her to help her get deal and talk through this trauma she had unwittingly experienced. As it must be hard enough losing your mother but in such an awful way I really can't imagine how anyone would cope. However there was no mention of this in the story and it just disappointed me while leaving me a little baffled.
The story started with a prologue which was probably the most in-depth I have seen in a long time, it was three and a half pages and rich in detail and mystery. Again for me it gave a little too much away about what happens in the book, but it did fill me with wonder about what happened, to whom and why. If it was me I would have saved this mystery and suspense till much later in the story, but it certainly got me intrigued.
What I found appealing was it was not written from just one viewpoint. I am not convinced however if it was right to write from several lead characters perspectives, because at times you would know how other characters felt, while at other times when the action was directed on Bev and Jane you weren't. That said it did get a more complete picture and it helped you understand each of the main characters view on life and how they felt and importantly why. Maybe it would have been better just doing it from the two main characters viewpoint as there views often contrasted even when they were doing the same thing.
I found it was easy to empathise with the two leading characters, as they both in their different ways were vulnerable. I think that's why the story worked so well because at a given moment in time they needed eachother and you as the reader could see how they could learn and benefit from friendship. I liked how the story developed, in truth it was not the most dynamic storyline ever, but it was full of incident and I always felt it was leading somewhere and definitely not where I expected it to. That in a way was a bonus that I had no real idea what the author had in store and despite a few clues I did not see what was going to happen.
The pace of the story was always good. Not as fast as some thrillers, but there was always something to think about that had or could happened to the characters. It dealt with many contrasting themes; probably one of the saddest and shocking for me was cutting yourself. I found this hard to read about and felt very sorry when it did but could at least understand why it happened and really wanted it solved so the character did not feel she had to do it anymore.
For me much of the beauty of this novel was that is was so deep and thought provoking. I thought the author did an amazing job getting in and understand two such contrasting characters. The girl who had everything but her home life was horrible and they were all living a lie and the girl who had nothing and dreamed of having the perfect life but never expected it.
I think my favourite character was Jane. She was easy to understand initially anyway and I immediately felt sympathy and support for her as she struggled to deal with what life had thrown at her. I was really keen for things to get better for her and her friendship to blossom with Bev, despite their backgrounds. I found through the author's words it was easy to like her and understand why she felt the way she did and why Suburbs became her dream.
Bev by contrast I initially felt was a spoilt little rich girl. However my view of her changed when I discovered more about her and how her life was far from perfect. Although it did frustrate me she couldn't share her problems with anyone even Jane when they became friends. I liked the way she was kind and supportive of Jane when she was at a low point in her life and enjoyed their friendship.
These two central characters where well supported by other family members notably Ben's Mum and Dad. By sharing their feelings you got to understand more of the picture behind the Green family makeup. I thought the author very clearly understood all her characters and the roles they had to play within the story. They were all superbly written for and I had no trouble identifying who was who throughout the story. Although I did find Bev's fathers attitude towards his family frustrating and I expected him to see the error of his ways at any moment.
The novels length I would have loved to be longed, but at the length it was it was about right to tell a very interesting and absorbing read. The story even had an epilogue that sort the shed some light on what had happened in the exciting conclusion of the story. I thought the author tidied up all the loose ends effectively so that leaving the story complete. But even at the end it left me thinking and wondering about what I had read.
have to be honest and say I don't think I could read a book as good as this every week as now I feel emotional drained!! I don't think I have felt as effected by what I read her this story ever. I must be discovered my feminine side at last. Admittedly I am surprised this budding author does not yet have her own web site so fans can learn more about her and her work.
This was a real roller coaster of a story, with great high and lows to enjoy and endure. I would certainly recommend this suspense novel to anyone who likes a deep, thought provoking story, rich is emotion and feeling. Sadly so far this author has only written four books in her highly promising but fledgling career so I will have to route out the other two very soon, as what I have read here was excellent.
Price: £0.01 used
About the author: www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/d/sarah-diamond
Thank you for reading my review.
This review is published on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.
©CPTDANIELS January 2011