Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday Review: The Cottage at Glass Beach by Heather Barbieri

It's almost summer and I know you need to some summer reading. Publishers have been gearing up just for this moment--God forbid we be without delightful, enthralling drama to soak up as we soak up sun.

THE COTTAGE AT GLASS BEACH is the classic women's fiction: its arc follows the story of a middle-aged married woman who takes her two girls to a family beach cottage for the summer when she finds out her husband has been cheating on her (he's a politician) and the scandal has been splashed in all the newspapers. While there, she reconnects with her aunt and slowly unravels the mystery of her mother's disappearance when she was a child.

What saves this from being like about fifty other women's fiction novels with similar premises is that this has a lovely layer of Irish folklore, which weaves a sort of compelling charm among the passages. Nora, the heroine, is clearly in need of something a little otherworldly to buffer her realities of a husband who is just too imperfect (and still doesn't know what he wants) and children who blame her for not being able to fix what was broken.

My favorite character was Aunt Maire, and the other island inhabitants who were quirky and generous to strangers. They seriously make you want to find the nearest island and take roost for a summer. And I have a real soft spot for Annie, the youngest daughter (7), who is optimistic and wise beyond her years, especially in comparison to her older, cynical, and angry sister, Ella (12).

Least favorite? Ella. Not only is this book an engrossing bit of women's fiction, but it's practically a how-to book in regards to wayward, obnoxious, hateful daughters. I must have spent half the book going, "Slap her!" or "Send her to boarding school!" In fact, I still hope Nora does. Brat. Of course, the father runs a close second, but he's not in the story enough to get a real read on him. He doesn't actually want to change his ways or give up his girlfriend to salvage his marriage (assuming Nora wanted to, and it's clear Nora doesn't); and he doesn't actually have honesty to just call it final. If anything, his behavior is a reflection of the reasons their marriage fell apart.

In the end though, you realize this isn't a book that is supposed to delve into the relationship of husband and wife, the long and short of marriage, or any of those normal topics you find in books about women's fiction with cheating husbands. No. This is a story about sisters; and this is a story about mothers--and the complicated relationships that accompany each. Those are the stories within that offer real drama and interest for your summer reading and was as compelling as the Irish folklore.(Seriously the folklore stuff had me going, "I want to go to Ireland!" repeatedly. And isn't that what summer reading is about? Make us long for far off enchantments?)

It was good. And for those of you who read the ending first, nothing to fear. (Though I was extremely tempted a half-dozen times and made myself not do it, so you can say the suspense was really good in this book. *LOL* But no worries. No bad endings to ruin your summer.)

If you have room on your summer reading list for some women's lit with a taste of Irish creme at the edges, do give this one a try. I believe you'll enjoy it.

I'm giving away my review copy of THE COTTAGE AT GLASS BEACH to one random commenter. Where would you like to spend  your summer and who would you like to spend it with? What is your favorite Irish folklore? And what are you reading this summer?


TerriOsburn said...

As my books are set on an actual island, I really want to make a trip down there this summer. I don't have the luxury of spending the season (wouldn't that be amazing?!) but a long weekend would be great. I need to make notes of the sounds and scents.

When you described the premise of this book I had that exact thought. "Another one of those books?" But now you've lured me in. Hmmm...I haven't read a women's fiction in a while. Maybe when I finish this new one.

Janga said...

I haven't read this one, Hellie, but I made a note of it. I read a fair amount of women's fiction, but I do like a happy ending, or a least the promise of happiness ahead. I'm not a fan of the undiluted gloom and misery school.

I'd love to spend my summer--or at least a sizeable chunk of it--in a Carolina mountain cabin alone except for the characters in the books on my ereader and in my head. Maybe then I'd get some writing done. But a new project says that I'll be spending my summer researching and writing--but not on my WIP. (I'd need my cell phone and Internet access. I don't want to lose touch with family and friends.)

I'm excited that I just received an eARC of Emilie Richards's new book, One Mountain Away. It's women's fiction, but I love her books whether she's writing romance, mystery, or women's fiction.

MsHellion said...

A long weekend would only just get you started. :) But I understand. It's hard to get away for a long period of time.

But if I had the time and resources...

I know! *LOL* Actually I wrote my review and then went back and read the blurb and the information given about the book, and I'm like, "THAT'S what they say the book is about?" so you guys might get something else entirely out of the book. It's sorta billed as a romance in a way, but I'm like, "No, it's not." *LOL* I mean, there is a guy...but his part played in this book doesn't have any arc really. No, I maintain this is a story about sisters and daughters/mothers. The boy candy is just so you can have some boy candy. Which is fine.

MsHellion said...

Janga, I'm right there with you. I do not enjoy doom and gloom any time of the year. I need a hopeful ending or they can put a sock in it. *LOL*

A cabin in the mountains sounds rather heavenly too! :) If I can't have an ocean, that'd be the next best place!

Will have to make a note for your author as well. :) I do love women's fiction.

Maureen said...

I don't know if I have a favorite Irish folktale or bit of folklore. I tend to like the selkie idea...

I'd go for a cabin in the quiet of the Cascade mountain range...around Mt. Lassen, the extinct volcano...well, dormant volcano. I like to see sky. One of the drawbacks of living near the ocean is the marine layer. I see lots of sky, but it's tinted by marine layer. I miss great big clouds and blue, blue sky...

Sounds like a good read for the summer...

Sabrina Shields (Scapegoat) said...

I would spend a summer just about anywhere but at home working! :) I'm easy to please.

A hut on a nice clear beach sounds perfect though.

My favorite part of Irish Folklore is the Tuatha Dé Danann - which is why I loved Karen Marie Moning's Fever series so much.