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Book Review: The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings

Devastating and deliciously dark, The Cliff House is less wish-fulfilment and more of a clever and disturbing reminder that things are rarely (if ever) how they appear on the surface.

Some friendships are made to be broken

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…

What starts as a heady summer of escape and friendship on the North Cornwall coast soon takes a decidedly darker turn, one as black as the swimming pool around which much of the action takes place, in this novel of contrasts.

Tamsyn and Edie’s families illustrate the conflicting interests: locals looking for work and affordable housing in a place that daily reminds them of what they’ve lost; and holiday home owners longing for escape in an enviable property out of reach to most people, especially locals, while bringing seasonal work and spending power.

The Cliff House is the story of a place as much as the two families it brings together and Amanda Jennings makes its presence felt by breathing life into the house and the stretch of coast it sits on.

She also cleverly shows the light and dark of each character and place, and how changeable these are. As I learned more about each character, my perception of them changed and sympathies continually realigned while reading, which kept me on edge throughout.

As moody and intense as its teen protagonists and Cornish coastline, The Cliff House is a clever and twisted tale of the devastation caused when obsession, envy and grief run wild one summer, and which Amanda Jennings brings to a chilling yet fitting conclusion. Highly recommended.

The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings is published by HQ, an imprint of Harper Collins. It is available in as an audiobook and an ebook and in hardback. You can find it at Amazon UK, Audible UK, Foyles, Hive (supporting your local independent bookshop), Waterstones and Wordery. To find out more about Amanda Jennings and her books, check out her Author Website or find her on Facebook, on Instagram or on Twitter

My thanks to the publisher and Lovereading UK for sending me a review copy. 

Book Review: The Lido by Libby Page #LoveTheLido

Libby Page’s debut novel The Lido has been on my book radar from the moment I first heard about it on Twitter. My own local lido reopened in 2015 (after lottery funding enabled its restoration) and a novel set around one under threat sounded interesting. That it also had at its heart an age-gap relationship between two women made it all the more appealing to me, as I’m lucky enough to have some great intergenerational friendships. Here’s what it’s about:

Meet Rosemary, 86, and Kate, 26: dreamers, campaigners, outdoor swimmers…

Rosemary has lived in Brixton all her life, but everything she knows is changing. Only the local lido, where she swims every day, remains a constant reminder of the past and her beloved husband George.

Kate has just moved and feels adrift in a city that is too big for her. She’s on the bottom rung of her career as a local journalist, and is determined to make something of it.

So when the lido is threatened with closure, Kate knows this story could be her chance to shine. But for Rosemary, it could be the end of everything. Together they are determined to make a stand, and to prove that the pool is more than just a place to swim – it is the heart of the community.

There’s a lot to love about The Lido, and its two main characters are key to this. I think most people will identify with Kate’s feelings of loneliness and anxiety in a big city, whether or not they’ve experienced it for themselves, and how she perceives other people’s lives either through social media or thanks to family dynamics closer to home. Or they’ll feel for the character of recently-widowed Rosemary, her love of the lido closely linked to that of her husband, the water giving her a freedom and grace she no longer feels on land, and the ways in which she touches the lives of those around her. She made me hope that everyone has at least one Rosemary in their lives. I know I do, and I’m grateful for them. They know who they are.

It didn’t take me long before I was willing both of these women on to succeed in their personal battles, as well as the more publicly-fought fight to save the lido. Around these two, Libby Page sketches in a community of people: some are more successfully done than others. I didn’t quite get a handle on Phil the paper’s editor, Jay the photographer or Geoff the lido manager but this wasn’t a major issue. They’re secondary characters and others such as Ahmed, Frank and Jermaine and their dog Sprout, Hope and especially George more than make up for it. In fact, George made a surprising impact on me for someone who died before the book opens. He comes back to life on the page, as Rosemary relives their relationship. Read more

Croeso. Welcome to Nut Press.

This is the online home of Kathryn Eastman, book squirrel, lawyer and writer. I’m a rugby-loving, tea-drinking chocoholic, who lives on a hill, that wanted to be a mountain, in Wales.

The Nut Press is full of book reviews, chocolate tasting, adventures with squirrels, a lot of tea drinking, and a snoring pussy cat, among other things. Oh, and very occasionally, some writing gets done.

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