A Wedding at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry – a tale of a family and friends in the sunshine

 

A family story with the emphasis on individuals’ secrets, this beautifully written novel of life and love on the south coast is full of the sunshine which makes it a memorable read. Of course the central focus is a wedding, uniquely celebrated at and around a hut christened the “Shedquarters” which belongs to the groom’s father. The event rapidly becomes the focus of secrets which may well change lives, and the exchange of them awakes emotions that will be deeply felt.  Henry uses her enormous skill and experience to construct a story that is engaging from the very beginning. I found it a truly difficult book to put down, as the situations made me think of the emotions involved. This is a book of parents and children of all types, relationships that meet severe challenges, all in the setting of a beautiful farm, beach and small town, and is a safe book to read of a family and friends. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book of the summer. 

 

The book opens with a description of the relationship between a young couple, Robyn and Jake, as they contemplate their present and future together. They are building a dream house on the edge of Robyn’s family farm, with the help of their family and friends. Jake is sleeping at the hut, which seems to be a tardis like building which contains very basic facilities. Robyn has a secret that is pressing on her especially at this time; she was adopted by her loving parents, Mick and Sheila, and now resolves to find out more about her birth mother. Not that she feels she lacks anything from them or indeed her younger sister Clover, but that she wants to know more about the woman who gave her up for adoption. Meanwhile Rocky, Jake’s father, is considering a new start after his divorce fifteen years before the novel’s beginning. His ex wife, Tina, hears of events on the south coast from her home in Enfield, and her story is also full of regrets and her secret occupation. Mick is in his turn coming to a momentous decision that will overturn a tradition that has lasted for generations. Beyond the present day there is the story of Emily who endures a severe trauma thirty years before, an experience that will have a significant impact on many people.

 

This is a most enjoyable book centred on the lives of various people in a contemporary setting. I found it very engaging and lively read, which actually kept me awake in a good way. The characters are very realistically drawn and have a valid existence in an interconnected way. The dialogue is well written and maintains the pace of a lovely story. The setting of old houses, flats and cottages are well described, the scenery which lends itself so well to the story is a detail which frames the story. My favourite character is probably Gwen, who is a rather bohemian friend of Robyn and who shows great compassion in dealing with a troubled young woman, as well as enormous skill in organising the great event. I recommend this book as a lovely read.   

 

This is a very new book which only came out yesterday, the 28th, in contrast to many of the older books which feature on this website. It is a very contemporary view of life, but with some of the humour and trauma common to much older books.

A Home from Home by Veronica Henry – a tale of Dragonfly Farm and families

Dragonfly Farm is an idyllic place to recover from a disastrous childhood, bad relationships and general challenges. An orchard full of different types of apple trees, authentic buildings ungentrified and unfashionable, the sort of place we would all like to visit, or better still, live in, once fed up with the hot and punishing city. As several of the characters say “Dragonfly Farm was more like home than anywhere else in the world”. Unfortunately the farm has a history of difficulties between two families, the Melchiors and the Culbones which at the hands of a less able writer than Henry could have descended into a heavy multigenerational family saga. This book, however, maintains a lightness of touch as the seasons are brought to life in this tale of tragedies and triumphs. The characters, who include a fiercely independent Tabitha, a confused but loving Gabriel and a determined Georgia, all leap off the page as being real and significant to the story. Henry does not just write romantic stories; her narratives are complex where romance rarely runs smoothly. This book is an enjoyable read with much to recommend it, and I was very pleased to be given the opportunity to read and review it ahead of publication day. 

 

When the book opens Tabitha is hard at work on the farm which has become her sanctuary after a difficult life with her estranged parents. She has a formidable energy, as she plans how she and her beloved great uncle Matthew will develop the cider making which is a locally popular product, partly as a tribute to his late wife Joy. It is only when the improbably named Dash appears on the doorstep that she realises that within a few moments she has lost all stability and that her way of life is under threat. Meanwhile in London, the author almost leads the reader into a very different story as a man admires a knife which would cut through flesh, fat and sinew. Fortunately murder is not planned, and Gabriel instead demonstrates his love for his partner Lola and their daughter Plum. As revelations emerge of past loves and loss, the legend of the drowned Eleanor remains in the background, inviting speculation and reminiscence, as the truth of identity becomes vital.

 

This is a book which contains deep feelings and emotions, and not only straightforward romance. The power of devotion and protective love is definitely a theme, and provides a counterpoint to the despair occasioned by one or two more tragic relationships. This is ultimately a book of the positives of human nature, mixed with a little humour and much love. There are coincidences and happiness, even when emotions are running high. There are strong women and less strong men, happy plans as well as difficult challenges. This book is effortlessly readable and gently reassuring. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a substantial and romantic book, and it will satisfy Veronica Henry’s many fans of deftly handled tales concerning families in all their challenging variety.   

I am particularly pleased to be posting this on Publication Day! I hope that this book proves as popular as Veronica’s other books; it certainly deserves a lot of favourable attention!