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Book Review: The Beach House by Helen McKenna

The Beach HouseMy rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Blurb
“Nothing much happens in the small Queensland town of Sunset Point, which is just the way the locals like it. So, when an outsider with grand plans threatens to demolish an iconic local landmark and build a huge resort, the battle lines are drawn.

Young journalist Jessica hopes to make it big with her coverage of the course case, but first she has to appease her editor and put a human interest spin on the situation. At first glance the five people she chooses to background have little in common; but it soon becomes apparent that staying at The Beach House has changed all of them in some way.

In telling the stories of Kate, Simone, Tom, Clare and Jack, Jessica too learns some important life lessons.”

Summary
The Beach House is a poignant tale of a holiday rental in the little town of Sunset Point, Queensland, and the lessons learned by some of its vacationing visitors which allow their lives to change in a significant manner.

Jessica, a young journalist with aspirations of fame, is excited when she is assigned the story of the legal tussle between the small Queensland Town of Sunset Point and a developer with visions of building a resort which will include the demolition of The Beach House to accommodate his plans. Unfortunately, her editor is interested in her pursuing the human interest aspect by finding people who had once vacationed in The Beach House and learning what the house meant to them.

In so doing, Jessica meets Kate, Simone, Tom, Clare and Jack, along with some other lesser characters, who all stayed at the house between 1991 and 2003.

Kate, having trouble deciding what she’d like to study at Uni, takes some time out before exams and shares the house with her taciturn cousin Jane. The relationship between the two cousins has always been a troubled one to say the least, but after Jane skilfully attends to a friend’s medical emergency, Kate comes to realise that her cousin isn’t as bad as she seems and the mending of their relationship begins. Some shocking revelations by Jane about her childhood floor Kate in the process, and by the end of their stay, they have managed to find some common ground and help one other.

For Simone, mother of 3 teenaged children and widowed a year before their vacation, The Beach House and her son Matt’s Uni friend, Liam, become beacons in her dark world and she begins the healing process.

Tom, a school teacher in country Queensland, is tasked by the principal to take three rebellious students on a school camp with a difference in the hope that the time away will allow the three misfits to reflect on their socially unacceptable behaviour. Unfortunately, unruly behaviour often covers up more serious problems and Tom is stunned to learn that one of these boys is living with a terrible secret that will tear your heart out.

Clare’s story is actually quite a few stories in itself. When the accommodation organisers manage to erroneously book the house out as “shared” accommodation, they have no idea that they have deftly set in motion a series of events that will change the lives of not one person, but seven, including two small children who will finally be able to get to know the meaning of family.

Jack is the last to tell his story and we come to learn that he is the lawyer who takes on the case against the developers. He, too, does not escape a lesson which only a vacation at The Beach House can deliver.

There is also Jim, one of the lifeguards at Sunset Point who, like a lighthouse beacon guiding ships safely away from danger, makes short appearances in most of the stories but who we soon realise has an uncanny underlying perceptiveness. Thanks to Jack’s story, we finally learn a lot more about him and the lesson he needs to learn. If Jack is the backbone, then Jim is the thread who sews it all together.

My Thoughts
To get to the end of the book and discover an Epilogue absolutely delighted me. It’s something we don’t see very often anymore and I was extremely excited to continue getting to know the characters I had come to love, whilst at the same time giving the story a finality which so many modern stories lack.

I really loved The Beach House, hence the reason it has earned 5 Stars from me. Helen McKenna has created well-defined, human characters in whom she has skilfully captured the essence and depth of human emotion in tales of discovery, healing, hope, compassion and forgiveness and, even at my tender age of just under 40, I find it most invigorating to come away from a book that has taught me something.

A well-structured novel with nice short paragraphs, and an easy, flowing prose, these almost 5 novellas within this book are truly inspirational and I highly recommend it as a book everyone should read.

About the Author
Helen McKenna lives on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Queensland and has worked in banking, local government, learning support and as a biographer. The Beach House is Helen’s first novel.

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