What’s it all about?:
As recommended on BBC Radio 2 Book Club, a tense, sensuous and piercingly insightful story of sexual obsession.
Each summer, Jenn and her husband Greg return to Deia, on Mallorca’s dramatic west coast. This year the arrival of Emma, Jenn’s stepdaughter, and her new boyfriend Nathan threatens to upset their equilibrium. Beautiful and reckless, Nathan stirs something unexpected in Jenn. As she is increasingly seduced by Nathan’s youth and the promise of passion, the line between desire and obsession begins to blur. What follows is a highly-charged liaison that puts lives and relationships in jeopardy. For Jenn, after this summer, nothing can ever be the same.
What did I think?:
This novel was getting a lot of buzz in the blogosphere and Twitter last year billed as “the hottest summer read,” and I was so intrigued by all the hype surrounding it that I had to succumb. Even though I read it a while again now I’m still not very sure what I think about it. The main character is forty-something Jenn, married to Greg and at the beginning of the story, they are about to enjoy their annual holiday in Mallorca where they rent a villa. This year is going to be slightly different however as Greg’s fifteen year old daughter, Emma is about to join them with her seventeen year old boyfriend Nathan.
Although Jenn and Greg have been happily married for a while now, there are tensions simmering beneath the surface. First, there is Jenn’s step-daughter Emma who is at a difficult and trying age making Jenn feel like she is constantly walking on egg shells around her. Unfortunately, quite a few of their rows or “mis-understandings” have led to Greg siding with his daughter and Jenn feeling quite alone on the outside. To be honest, Emma is a complete brat and knows how to use her tears to her advantage, often using her father as a weapon against her step-mother. Jenn is not completely without fault and tries her hardest to build a positive relationship with Emma but all too often she finds herself a loser in a battle she wasn’t aware she was fighting. Greg himself has recently become more aloof with Jenn, hiding himself away and taking secretive phone calls. Jenn is just hoping that this holiday will bring them closer together again as a couple and is slightly miffed that Emma and her boyfriend will be crashing her plans to re-ignite the spark in their marriage.
So then Nathan arrives. They don’t exactly get off to the best start when they arrive to find Jenn sun-bathing topless. It’s all completely un-intentional but of course Emma believes that this is part of a huge plot to humiliate her. At the start both Jenn and Greg are worried as confident Nathan quite obviously has had quite a bit of ahem… experience and they are concerned that he might be rail-roading Emma into having sex before she is ready for it. Then things get extremely tense as Jenn and Nathan are instantly attracted to one another and cannot deny the heat and sexual tension between themselves. Jenn is confused and frustrated and tries everything in her power to not be attracted to Nathan (it’s her step-daughters boyfriend for crying out loud!) however fails miserably. The rest of the novel presents a page-turning nightmare as the attraction between the two hits boiling point, a situation that can only cause anguish for all parties involved.
Okay, so this book should come with a warning – it’s incredibly hot. The sexual scenes are quite graphic and might be a bit uncomfortable for some readers with a sensitive disposition. I’m not easily shocked but one scene in particular sticks in my mind and I actually had to close my book on the tube in case anyone was reading over my shoulder! This book was also really interesting as none of the characters are particularly likeable but in fact that only serves to make it feel quite authentic as they come across as more human. The author has a real talent for suspense and I found myself glued to each page as the story unfolded. It was almost like reading about a train wreck that you know is going to happen and yet you can’t take your eyes off it. At times I felt like the naughty outsider looking into these peoples lives and it was quite a voyeuristic experience. The book is relatively short, under 300 pages, and is told over the space of one week where the author manages to cram a lot into a small space of time although personally it never felt particularly rushed. What didn’t I like? I can’t really put my finger on it – perhaps it’s the ending which left me a bit frustrated. For fans of tense and steamy reads it’s a definite winner and I would quite like to read some more of Helen Walsh’s work.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):