The House Beneath the Cliffs by Sharon Gosling – Finding a new start in a tiny community

The House Beneath the Cliffs by Sharon Gosling

A tiny village, permanently under the threat of the weather that threatens to overwhelm it, is the important setting for this book of romance, great cooking and the search for a new start. When Anna arrives in Crovie she is broken after the death of her father and the break up of her long term partner. This book is a clever construction which revolves around a very specific place which is so vividly described, and a tiny house which becomes rich with possibility. Its sense of place is so strong that this story could take place nowhere else, as a tiny community is balanced on the edge of cliffs, and its inhabitants are aware of the dangers of rocks, landships and stormy seas.

 Anna emerges as a character with real depth, having misgivings about many of her decisions, especially when she first sees how small her cottage, the “Fishergirl’s Luck”, actually is after she has bought it having only seen photographs. She is feeling vulnerable after losing her much loved father, and after her relationship with an egotistical chef who has profited from her talent has ended. After several years of being told that she had little ability and attractiveness, she is surprised to be valued by others for her superb cooking and her noticeable warmth. The other characters, ranging from a boy obsessed by dolphins to an elderly man who seems determined to drive Anna away, become memorable in their consistently drawn identity. This is such a well written novel which I really enjoyed, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.

When Anna arrives in the village of Crovie she feels very alone, and an elderly man barking at her for parking makes her feel anything but welcome. She is soon taken in by friendly neighbours, who let her into the tiny cottage she has bought. She is at first daunted by the size of the accommodation, and resolves to leave soon; it is only gradually that she realises the possibilities of the tiny kitchen and the recipes she has discovered in an old notebook. As she is introduced to the community in the small village, she makes new friends as well as receiving more distant support from a friend who knows how she was controlled and ignored by her previous boyfriend. She meets some rather distracting locals, one who is a temporary resident, and someone who seems burdened by the past and devoted to a boy of determination and courage. As she accidentally begins to cook delicious lunches for all comers, her reputation becomes bigger than her resources. As the natural forces of storms and potential landships seem to threaten the community’s very existence, can she move on and leave a situation which ironically is anchoring her to a spot?

This is a book which is filled with affection for a very special place on the Moray Firth. It is different from novels set in some established villages, as the very existence of buildings is called into question in the face of its position on the edge of the sea. This adds a sense of danger and impermanence which reflects Anna’s own uncertainties. It is also a book of the excellence of food that can be found in the locality, the produce of the sea and even the beaches. I really enjoyed this novel’s sense of place, the community which has its challenging people, the friendships and more that develop. It is an easy to read book with strong themes and I recommend it.