Norabee's Reviews > The Beach House

The Beach House by Jane Green
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Aug 15, 2008

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Recommended for: Nantucket enthusiasts
Read in June, 2008

Jane Green’s depiction of Nantucket life and the surrounding history is a fine backdrop from which to tell the tale of Nan Powell. Nan is the 65 year old year-round resident of the famed island. Years ago, Nan was left a young widow after her husband, Everett, committed suicide and in his wake, left a load of gambling debts that rendered her and their young son, Michael, in dire financial straits. The solution came when Nan decided to sell off some of the prized property at Windermere and keep only the main house and a few acres for herself and her son.

Many years pass, fairly uneventfully, although Nan has become the town’s eccentric – you see she helps herself to other people’s hydrangeas, swims naked in their swimming pools when no one’s around and while everyone in town knows Nan, no one really “knows” her. So it seems as though Nan finds herself, once again, under some financial difficulties when she discovers that the “hedge funds” that her financial portfolio have consisted of have not performed well and it seems that she may be broke and that Nan may finally be forced to sell her beloved Windermere.

Eventually, she comes along a solution that will not only help her financial situation, but also breathe life into Windermere again. When Nan was a young wife, this home was the backdrop of many parties and a main fixture in the social hey-day of that era. Through the years, she has found that not only has it been difficult to maintain Windermere esthetically, but time has also drained the home’s spirit. After an unsuccessful attempt to sell the home’s much loved, but also uncared for furniture, she decides to rent rooms and turn Windermere into a summer boarding house.

After reviewing answers to her ad, she decides to rent to Daniel, who is on the run from a marriage that he no longer understands, but afraid to pull away from the daughters he loves dearly. Recently divorced Daff finds that she suddenly has a free summer to roam Nantucket’s beaches and old shops, while her teenage daughter spends some time with her father. Nan’s son Michael also returns to Nantucket that summer, fleeing from a misguided romance with his boss’s wife and he hopes to answer some questions about his choices in the affairs of love.

Although brought together for different reasons, the residents find themselves getting to know each other and reveal a few secrets among them. Along the way, they receive visitors – Dan welcomes his daughters and his ex and answers some questions about his marriage. Michael gets a visitor from back home and learns that it’s not that easy to just walk away – sometimes your troubles can follow you. Even Nan gets a an unexpected visit from someone from her past and the answers to deeply hidden secrets evolve and threaten to destroy everything that Nan has worked so hard to sustain.

I think that I was expecting something light, more chick-lit in nature and I found that it took me a while to get into this story. As I continued to read this novel, I began to catch wind of Green’s style - her use of words that create a picture in the mind of the reader – and realized that this story winds much deeper and entertains at a much higher level than I was originally expecting. I think that this was an enjoyable story and gives an insider’s view to summer life in Nantucket.
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