Wednesday 11 May 2016

Book Review: The Beach Hut by Cassandra Parkin

Last Updated: 5 June 2021

The Beach Hut by Cassandra Parkin book cover

AD* | A novel about love, loss, memory, and family relationships.

It is autumn time and on a peaceful Cornish beach, Finn and his sister Ava defy planning regulations and achieve a childhood dream when they build themselves an illegal beach hut. This tiny haven will be their home until Ava departs in midwinter for a round-the-world adventure.

In the town, local publican Donald is determined to get rid of them. Still mourning the death of his wife, all he wants is a quiet place where he can forget the past and raise his daughter Alicia in safety. But Alicia is wrestling with demons of her own. 

As the sunshine fades and winter approaches, the beach hut stirs old memories for everyone. Their lives become entwined in surprising ways and the secrets of past and present are finally exposed.

Despite the well-known saying, most of us are in fact guilty of judging books by their covers - I know I am! Finding a book with a visually appealing cover makes me much more likely to pick the book up, especially when I'm just browsing in a bookshop.

But why is this relevant to the review?

Simple - just take a look at the cover above. Instant #CoverCrush!

Without a doubt, Cassandra Parkin's covers are some of my favourites at the moment. As well as this fab design, take a look at the cover of her debut novel The Summer We All Ran Away. Stunning.

Now we've all taken time to appreciate the pretty cover, it's time to move on to the review itself.

As I was reading this book, I couldn't help but feel reminded of several others I've read and reviewed in the last year or so - Beneath the Surface by Heidi Perks, Rising Tide by Susan Roebuck, and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick. Each of these books places the same strong emphasis on family and the first two even have links to the sea as well! If you're a fan of this sort of fiction, I definitely recommend you check out these books.

Childhood memories

Anyway, first things first, I really enjoyed this book. It's that kind of fluid contemporary fiction that doesn't really slot neatly into a specific genre, and the story is all the better for that. The overarching themes in The Beach Hut are love, loss and family - at times it's touching and bittersweet, at other points it's funny as Finn and Ava fondly relive their childhood memories.

In my opinion, one of the best things about this book is the way it triggers your own childhood memories as you read it. Finn and Ava's holiday memories could easily be interchanged with many of my own - memories of family holidays by the sea, with fish and chips and the unpredictable British weather. In that respect, it's quintessentially British, and the author has done a brilliant job of capturing the very essence of those kinds of holidays.

Loss and perspective

We are treated to several different narrators throughout the book. In theory that sounds confusing, but it all makes sense as you read it. This technique works particularly well as it allows us to learn more about our four main characters - Finn, Ava, Donald and Alicia. We see things from their differing perspectives, and that really gives us a feel for the type of people they each are.

Another point worth mentioning is that loss is dealt with in a very interesting way here. Both pairs of characters have lost people very close to them, but instead of focusing on the loss itself, we read about how the losses have shaped the characters and made them into who they are at the point we join their story. The loss is a turning point in their lives, but ultimately the draw of the sea and the need to fulfil that childhood dream of living in the beach hut is where the real story lies.

Rating: 4 stars

The Beach Hut by Cassandra Parkin is available to buy now (paid link; commission earned).

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* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review 

Are you a fan of Cassandra Parkin? Have you read The Beach Hut yet? Let me know in the comments below!

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