The Cliff House is Amanda Jennings’ fourth novel and is published today by HQ Stories. My review copy came from NetGalley.
Some friendships are made to be broken
Cornwall, summer of 1986.
The Davenports, with their fast cars and glamorous clothes, living the dream in a breathtaking house overlooking the sea.
If only… thinks sixteen-year-old Tamsyn, her binoculars trained on the perfect family in their perfect home.
If only her life was as perfect as theirs.
If only Edie Davenport would be her friend.
If only she lived at The Cliff House…
Although this is Amanda Jennings’ fourth book, it’s her second novel set in Cornwall, In Her Wake being the first. You can tell that Amanda Jennings loves Cornwall by her evocative descriptions of the county. At the same time, she contrasts that beauty with the brutality of economic downturn.
Set in 1986, the tin mines, the greatest source of revenue, have been closed. Many communities are hit by the closures, not least Tamsyn’s family. Her brother struggles to find employment and her grandfather is ill with a lung disease caused by a lifetime of working in the mines. Her father died a few years before so her mother has two jobs – working in a fish and chip shop and cleaning at The Cliff House, owned by the Davenports.
This is another issue that Amanda Jennings weaves into the book – second homes in Cornwall owned by the wealthy. Tamsyn’s bedroom is tiny and her mother doesn’t have a bedroom at all, giving it up for her ill father-in-law. So The Cliff House has great allure for Tamsyn. When it had been empty, she and her father had visited it and swum in the pool. Now there’s a family living there for the whole summer. When she tries to sneak in and swim, she’d discovered by Edie Davenport. Instead of telling on her, Edie and Tamsyn become friends and have the whole summer ahead of them. But it’s a summer that’s destined to change their lives forever.
From the offset there’s unease in the story and Amanda Jennings uses this to great effect. Crows are used as omens and there’s always a sense that the Davenports are too good to be true. It’s hard to know where to place this novel in genre terms. Although there is a psychological thriller element, it also reminded me of a great family saga with two families twisted into knots that can’t easily be undone. Obsession and claustrophobia go hand in hand and hover like storm clouds throughout the novel. Although there are a few twists and turns throughout the book, it’s really a story that builds with a crescendo.
People often want to have a perfect summer. I’m not sure why but I suspect it has more to do with memories than the moment in time. If you’re looking for a perfect read for your perfect summer holiday, then look no further. The Cliff House is beautifully written with its contrasting elements of beauty and brutality, love and obsession, loss and perfection.
You can find out more about Amanda Jennings and buy her books here.
About the Author
Amanda Jennings writes psychological suspense and is the author of Sworn Secret, which was published in the UK, US and Italy. It was an Amazon kindle Top 5 bestseller in the UK, a Top 100 bestseller in the US, and reached the number 1 spot in Italy. Her second book, The Judas Scar, was published in 2014 and optioned shortly after by a UK film and television production company. In Her Wake, is her most recently published book. It’s set in Cornwall, where her mother’s side of the family is from, and where she spent long and very happy childhood summers. Amanda is a regular guest on BBC Berkshire’s weekly Book Club and enjoys meeting readers at libraries, book clubs and literary festivals. She writes a blog and is active on Twitter. She lives just outside Henley-on-Thames with her husband, three daughters and an unruly menagerie of pets.