Saturday, September 8, 2012
Book Review: The Beach House by Jane Green
Author: Jane Green
Publisher: Viking Adult
Release Date: June 17, 2008
Source: e-book loan from my local library
Plot summary from Goodreads:
Known in Nantucket as the crazy woman who lives in the rambling house atop the bluff, Nan doesn't care what people think. At sixty-five-years old, her husband died twenty years ago, her beauty has faded, and her family has flown. If her neighbors are away, why shouldn't she skinny dip in their swimming pools and help herself to their flowers? But when she discovers the money she thought would last forever is dwindling and she could lose her beloved house, Nan knows she has to make drastic changes.
So Nan takes out an ad: Rooms to rent for the summer in a beautiful old Nantucket home with water views and direct access to the beach. Slowly, people start moving into the house, filling it with noise, with laughter, and with tears. As the house comes alive again, Nan finds her family expanding. Her son comes home for the summer, and then an unexpected visitor turns all their lives upside-down.
I have a love/hate relationship with the phrase "chick lit". I don't like it, because it implies a genre that is vapid, silly, and full of hot-pink-spined books. While I find this true of SOME books in this genre (AHEM, Shopaholic series), it is most definitely not true for all (or even the majority). However, I still sometimes use the term because it's easy and less clunky than saying "women's literature" or something of that sort. Go ahead, call me lazy...
Anyway, I suppose you would say this book falls under chick lit, but I have to immediately follow that by saying this is SMART chick lit. It's women's fiction that deals with relationships realistically, and makes an effort to get in the heads of each of its characters. And oh yeah, I LOVED IT.
The story centers primarily around Nan and her 3 boarders (names withheld because I don't want to spoil). However, it starts off following them well before they all end up in Nantucket, so the first chapter or two are a bit disorienting as you follow the lives of these seemingly unrelated people. But once you figure out who's who, the variety of perspectives in this story is awesome. Not only do you get the POV of each of the 4 main characters, but you get short snippets from their spouses' perspectives, their kids' perspectives, etc., creating a narrative that puts you in the head of nearly every character, and giving you a look at each of the 4 main characters from a whole host of different vantage points. I love books and movies that do the whole we-don't-know-each-other-at-the-beginning-but-soon-our-lives-will-collide thing, but that paired with this crazy multi-person perspective? Genius. It's the #1 reason I loved this book so much.
By the end of the book, I felt like I knew each character so well. Green spends a lot of time making sure you really understand the emotions of each person, in every chapter. It doesn't take you long to start feeling invested in their well-being.
Themes of infidelity, being true to self, and "everything happens for a reason" were strong throughout the novel. There are some GREAT plot twists, and the ending is perfect.
I only had 2 small beefs with this book. Number one: the themes of the novel are highlighted WAY too much. I think every character said/thought something along the lines of "she felt like she was coming home" or "he finally felt at home" or (enter cliche statement about home here). Halfway through, I was like, "OKAY, GOT IT, THE BEACH HOUSE IS A METAPHOR, WE'RE GOOD". Same goes for the "everything happens for a reason" theme. I prefer it when authors assume I am smart enough to figure out the embedded themes on my own, cuz I is purty intellijent.
My other (very minor) complaint was that the American characters would sometimes use British-style language in conversation. Not a huge deal, but it was noticeable...I'm sure it snuck in because Green is British. It was just a little awkward in the dialogue when I picked up on it.
But overall? The rest of the book was so good, I don't even really care about those 2 small complaints. This is not my first Jane Green novel, and while I have really enjoyed most of them (Jemima J is definitely another to check out), this one might be my favorite so far. This would be a great summer read, so quick--go get it before summer officially ends!