Letters from the Lighthouse Cottage
by Ali McNamara
Publishing Date: 14th July 2015
Source: Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 384
Genre: Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)
The sun is shining in the quiet little seaside town of Sandybridge
Sandybridge is the perfect English seaside town: home to gift shops, tea rooms and a fabulous fish and chip shop. And it’s home to Grace – although right now, she’s not too happy about it.
Grace grew up in Sandybridge, helping her parents sort junk from vintage treasures, but she always longed to escape to a bigger world. And she made it, travelling the world for her job, falling in love and starting a family. So why is she back in the tiny seaside town she’d long left behind, hanging out with Charlie, the boy who became her best friend when they were teenagers?
It turns out that travelling the world may not have been exactly what Grace needed to do. Perhaps everything she wanted has always been at home – after all, they do say that’s where the heart is…
Having read all of Ali McNamara’s books and enjoying most of them I’ve been waiting impatiently for her newest release, „Letters from Lighthouse Cottage”. The beautiful cover has such a summery vibe, and I also loved the synopsis, so as soon as it arrived on my doorstep I started to read it. There is a personal note at the beginning of the book – I’m not sure if it’s from the author or from Remy – where it is mentioned in beautiful words that life is never easy and how lovely it would be to have help, even if it should come in a very unusual way. Keeping this in mind I hoped for a very lovely story.
And yes, it is a story about help that comes in – indeed – very unusual way for the main character Grace. It offers her advice, gives hints, it mostly guides her in her endeavours but can’t share details, names or dates and it’s up to Grace if she takes the advice or not. Grace is a likeable, albeit a little flat, character. I had a feeling that everything in her life she’s doing correctly, so that she’ll always come away completely unscathed – I just missed this adventurous element in her. Sure, she dreamed of escaping from Sandybridge, of making her life a little more interesting, of finding her own place and she did it, and it was not her fault that she ended in her little town again. So altogether, she was your normal girl from the neighbourhood, a girl that life got into her ways sometimes. We get to know her in the 1980′s, when she’s fifteen and wants to escape Sandybridge, as she feels there is much more to life than living in a little town and helping her parents in the shop. I think the references to the 80′s were one of the best parts of the book and they often raised a smile on my lips as those were the things that I used to know and enjoy the same as Grace.
But altogether, you know, I was sure I am going to love this book and it disappointed me that I didn’t. On the whole the story felt a little too flat and a little too far – fetched and I missed some sparkles and more life in the storyline. Yes, this is a story full of friendship and feelings but somehow it didn’t click with me. I don’t know, I can’t put a finger on it, but for my liking it was just too polished, too perfect, too good and jumping forward in time just didn’t sit with me – the going back and forth in time was absolutely in order, it was the jumping forward that made me feel as if I’m missing tons of things. I had a feeling that I’m missing too much from the characters’ lives. I understand it is the way the story was planned and is built, of course, but while there are books that such a way of organizing the story is great, in „Letters from Lighthouse Cottage” it just makes the story a little too chopped and limited. I also had a feeling that the characters are walking on eggshells around themselves, that they take themselves oh so seriously and this is probably why I didn’t warm to them so much. And one more „also” – why make it Remy? And why did he choose Grace? While I don’t have a problem with some magic in the books I just couldn’t accept the fact that it was Remy that was this magic element and the letters – I am really sorry – they were so unconvincing and I just didn’t buy them and the characters were going around in circles instead of taking actions too long. Also, knowing Ali McNamara’s all previous books I was hoping for some humour but this time the book had a great deal of emotions involved and I had a feeling it’s just draining me – it was more on the heavy, and not humorous, side. So sadly, a story with such a brilliant promise and wonderful, gorgeous cover for me just went flat. The conversations between the teenage Grace and Charlie seemed so wooden and I can’t imagine young people speaking this way about such things. It is a great idea, this book, but I just have a feeling that the author had this concept but wasn’t sure how to create a great story based on it.
But of course the book had its moments and I liked the writing. The idea for the book itself was also lovely – a story about first friendships and first love. Our main character Grace lives in a quiet village at the seaside, Sandybridge, and the name is very adequate. Her parents run an antique shop and Grace often helps with house clearances, and I found this part of the story great, even though there was not so much of it, but just imagine, some may call it clutter but some call it finding treasures, right? Just think what you can find when clearing a house or two, secrets, letters, hidden treasures… and one day Grace finds such a gem and his name is Remy…
Grace’s friends are Charlie and Danny and I liked how different the friendships were. They turned then later out into interests and into romance element and it started to bother me a little as it took so long for Grace to finally realise that the love of her life is probably only within reach, at her fingertips. The two boys, and then men, were two very different personalities and I can’t say that I liked one more than the other – they were just likeable characters, and following their friendship, with all its ups and downs, seeing how they change and how their lives were shaped, I finished this book with the same feeling of sympathy to them both. Even though Danny was the more adventurous one.
The book has also the holiday vibes to it, so be sure to make it your summer read! It is written in this welcoming, lovely Ali McNamara’s way and this is probably this what kept me glued to the pages, and even if I skipped some sections I still enjoyed the storytelling. I wouldn’t say that this is Ms McNamara’s best book, as I enjoyed some of her other novels much more, but it is a charming, warm story about friendship and trust.