Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Cliff House – Amanda Jennings

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

This atmospheric story is set on the coast of Cornwall in 1986 where we meet the shy and unhappy Tamsyn as she perches on the cliff-top spying on the comings and goings at the Cliff House. The summer holidays have started and Tamsyn leaves her brother sleeping, sneaks the spare key her mother has to clean the house and resolves to have a proper look inside the house.

This book is mesmerising mainly because of the lyrical prose set against the chilling background of the rich Edie’s friendship with poor Tamsyn. Tamsyn is still struggling to come to terms with her father’s death, the poverty the family are experiencing as the local tin mine shut leaving her brother out of work with no real prospect of finding something to replace it. Tamsyn’s mother juggles jobs but is tiring of just managing and has begun to forge a new relationship. Tamsyn is less than happy with this being as she is full of grief and the angst of being a sixteen year old girl who is somewhat obsessed with the house and its occupants.

Edie has been expelled from her boarding school when the family decamps for an entire summer in the back of beyond in Cornwall. Away from everyone and everything she knows she feels adrift especially as things behind the windows are not as Tamsyn imagines them to be. The meaning of life really isn’t found by the expensive scarf discarded by the swimming pool on the terrace, or the jewels or even the fame the family enjoy because Max Davenport is a best-selling author. Edie is far more worldly-wise than Tamsyn and yet the two forge an often uncomfortable relationship as the summer progresses.

This isn’t a book full of fast-moving action, it is one where the characters lead the way towards a darker and darker heart. We have the imagery, the black raven being the main one which Tamsyn is sure foretells disaster, after all she saw one before her father died, one night at sea in a terrible storm. The relationships between the well-to-do Davenports and Edie, her brother Jago all bind them tighter together, often unwillingly but always inevitably.

The contrast between the families is stark, the descriptions of Tamsyn’s mother unfolding her bed as she’d given up the room she shared with her husband to his elderly father. The lack of money for anything more than the bare necessities are scattered throughout the book without ever becoming ‘shouty’ something that isn’t required when Tamsyn is given her first glass of champagne by Max Davenport at Cliff House.

Reading The Cliff House I felt drawn into Tamsyn’s obsession with the house and its owners and as the girls negotiate their uneven friendship I felt for her with her obvious feeling of inferiority but Edie doesn’t get things all her own way and she has her own problems that she’s trying to hide. Before we close the book, not only do we see how the summer ended, and even better a peak at what happened next.

I have to commend Amanda Jennings on her story-telling; whilst this is a different type of tale to In Her Wake, it is also makes for compulsive reading including as it does the hat-trick of superbly drawn characters, an atmospheric yet changeable setting and a darkness that enthralled this reader.

I am very grateful to the publishers HQ for allowing me to read an advance copy of The Cliff House prior to publication on 17 May 2018. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 17 May 2018
Publisher: HQ
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (January 28)

You may have noticed my absence last week while I was on a weekend break in the Peak District. This was actually my Christmas present from the OH and it was everything I hoped for: it was peaceful, it snowed and this was the stunning view from our bedroom window.

So we got to walk around the lake, have a few drinks in the local hotel and I even managed to read some of my books!

This Week on the Blog

My excerpt post this week was from the very intriguing concept mystery, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.

I was part of the Blog Tour for Cara Hunter’s crime fiction novel Close to Home which is set in Oxford. Cara kindly sent me a piece about the setting and I rounded off with my review which awarded this book the full five stars.

On Thursday I reviewed Hell Bay by Kate Rhodes, a dark crime thriller set on one of the smallest of the Scilly Islands, Bryher.

My final review of the week was for Dead Souls by Angela Marsons, the sixth in her DI Kim Stone series which was just as brilliant, if not more so than the five preceding books.

My week was rounded off by finally publishing my list for The Classics Club – I think I could have read about five of these in the time I’ve spent deciding which ones to put on the list, or those to leave off – take a look and see if you think I chose wisely.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading The Good People by Hannah Kent. A book steeped in the folklore and superstition that I’m sure reigned worldwide at the beginning of the nineteenth century but possibly had its most ardent followers in the Irish countryside with its stories of fairies, changelings and many rituals to ward off evil. The Good People is set in County Kerry in 1825 and is best summed up as a disturbing tale.

You can read my review here or click on the book cover

 

Blurb

County Kerry, Ireland, 1825.

Nóra, bereft after the sudden death of her beloved husband, finds herself alone and caring for her young grandson Micheál. Micheál cannot speak and cannot walk and Nóra is desperate to know what is wrong with him. What happened to the healthy, happy grandson she met when her daughter was still alive?

Mary arrives in the valley to help Nóra just as the whispers are spreading: the stories of unexplained misfortunes, of illnesses, and the rumours that Micheál is a changeling child who is bringing bad luck to the valley.
Nance’s knowledge keeps her apart. To the new priest, she is a threat, but to the valley people she is a wanderer, a healer. Nance knows how to use the plants and berries of the woodland; she understands the magic in the old ways. And she might be able to help Micheál.

As these three women are drawn together in the hope of restoring Micheál, their world of folklore and belief, of ritual and stories, tightens around them. It will lead them down a dangerous path, and force them to question everything they have ever known.

Based on true events and set in a lost world bound by its own laws, The Good People is Hannah Kent’s startling novel about absolute belief and devoted love. Terrifying, thrilling and moving in equal measure, this long-awaited follow-up to Burial Rites shows an author at the height of her powers. Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

Even though I have now read three of my own books, I haven’t spent my token yet with no books bought in 2018 so far. I’ll come back to the New Year’s Resolutions later in the post…

I have received two approvals from NetGalley, I’m actually not sure which one I’m most excited about!

I have a copy of The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings which I am desperate to read after her previous novel In Her Wake in 2016. The Cliff House will be published on 17 May 2018.



Blurb

Cornwall, summer of 1986.

The Davenports, with their fast cars and glamorous clothes, living the dream in a breathtaking house overlooking the sea.
If only… thinks sixteen-year-old Tamsyn, her binoculars trained on the perfect family in their perfect home.

If only her life was as perfect as theirs.
If only Edie Davenport would be her friend.
If only she lived at The Cliff House…

Amanda Jennings weaves a haunting tale of obsession, loss and longing, set against the brooding North Cornish coastline, destined to stay with readers long after the final page is turned. NetGalley

And.. after being blown away by the first in the DI Adam Fawley series, Close to Home (see above) I am delighted to have received a copy of book two called In the Dark by Cara Hunter which will be published on 5 July 2018.

Blurb

DO YOU KNOW WHAT THEY’RE HIDING IN THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR?

From the author of CLOSE TO HOME, comes the second pulse-pounding DI Fawley crime thriller. A woman and child are found locked in a basement room, barely alive… No one knows who they are – the woman can’t speak, and there are no missing persons reports that match their profile. And the elderly man who owns the house claims he has never seen them before.

The inhabitants of the quiet Oxford street are in shock – how could this happen right under their noses? But DI Adam Fawley knows that nothing is impossible. And that no one is as innocent as they seem . . . NetGalley

Now in addition to originally reading six classic books this year my aim was to visit my local library more regularly. Well yesterday with my list for The Classics Club finally completed I took a trip to see which one I should pick up to get me started. After spending quite some time looking through the shelves I came away with four that appeared on my list so I can decide which one to start with.

So I will be choosing from:

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Our Spoons Came from Woolworths by Barbara Comyns

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

And I picked up a copy of My Life in Houses by Margaret Forster which has sat on my wishlist since it was published back in 2014. I was a huge fan of this author’s work, particularly her non-fiction books and this should fit well with the insight’s she gave us into her life through her previous books on her family such as Hidden Lives.

Blurb

‘I was born on 25th May, 1938, in the front bedroom of a house in Orton Road, a house on the outer edges of Raffles, a council estate. I was a lucky girl.’

So begins Margaret Forster’s journey through the houses she’s lived in, from that sparkling new council house, to her beloved London home of today. This is not a book about bricks and mortar though. This is a book about what houses are to us, the effect they have on the way we live our lives and the changing nature of our homes: from blacking grates and outside privies; to cities dominated by bedsits and lodgings; to the houses of today converted back into single dwellings. Finally, it is a gently insistent, personal inquiry into the meaning of home. Amazon

tbr-watch

Since my last post I have read 5 books and appear to have gained 2 so my TBR on the downward slide to 186

Physical Books – 109
Kindle Books – 55
NetGalley Books –22

 

I have banked another third of book token this week and as I haven’t bought any books I’m in credit!