Each summer, Jenn and her husband Greg return to Deia, on Mallorca’s dramatic west coast. This year the arrival of Emma, Jenn’s stepdaughter, and her new boyfriend Nathan threatens to upset their equilibrium. Beautiful and reckless, Nathan stirs something unexpected in Jenn. As she is increasingly seduced by Nathan’s youth and the promise of passion, the line between desire and obsession begins to blur. What follows is a highly-charged liaison that puts lives and relationships in jeopardy. For Jenn, after this summer, nothing can ever be the same.
I’m going to pin my colours to the mast on this one – I really enjoyed it. From a quick whizz through other reviews, it’s confused a lot of people. I don’t really see the comparison with Gone Girl or Beautiful Ruins – and approaching it expecting something similar does it no favours. Is it erotica then? Not really – although the sexual tension and its development and resolution are really well done. It’s fairly graphic, but I think anyone looking for a hot sex read might be a bit disappointed. And it’s certainly not a run-of-the-mill beach read – it’s too well done for that, more literary in style. So if all that describes what it isn’t – what is it?
I enjoyed the exploration of a marriage – the difficulties of taking on another woman’s child, the secrets that can lie under the surface, the simple pleasure that can be derived from each other’s company. The setting is wonderful, beautifully drawn – I’m not very familiar with Majorca, but the sleepy village setting watching the sun go down is perfect. The attraction of young Nathan passes me by a little – whether it’s looking for lost youth, jealousy of the spoilt stepdaughter or something other is never really explained. But it’s a fascinating read as Jenn sacrifices everything for sexual gratification – the tension is palpable, and everything shimmers wonderfully in the heat. The ending has left people scratching their heads a little – but I thought the absence of resolution was quite perfect.
All I can say really is “read it”. It’s a book that will divide people, but I thought it had a mesmerising intensity that made it an absolute must read.
My thanks to Amazon Vine for my advance reading copy. The Lemon Grove is due for publication on 27thFebruary by Tinder Press in hardback and Kindle editions – the paperback will follow in June.
Helen Walsh was born in Warrington in 1977 and moved to Barcelona at the age of sixteen. Working as a fixer in the red light district, she saved enough money to put herself through language school. Burnt out and broke, she returned to England a year later and now works with socially excluded teenagers in North Liverpool. Her debut novel, Brass, won the Betty Trask prize in 2005 and her follow-up Once Upon A Time in England won the Somerset Maugham Prize in 2009. The Lemon Grove is her fourth novel.