It’s a pleasure today to be part of Bookouture‘s Books-on-tour again, this time sharing my publication day review of The Woman on the Beach by Julia Roberts: it’s now available via Amazon for kindle, in paperback, and as an audiobook and also via Apple, for Kobo and through Google. My thanks to Bookouture for inviting me to join the tour and for my advance reading e-copy (provided via netgalley), and to Sarah Hardy for her ongoing support.
I’ve read Julia’s excellent writing quite a few times before – I never did manage to fit in the Liberty Sands trilogy, but I loved two of her shorter reads, Time for a Short Story (review here) and Christmas at Carol’s (you’ll find that review here). When Alice in Theatreland was published in 2017, Julia joined me with a lovely guest post – I went on to read and thoroughly enjoy it, and you’ll find my review here. I lost track of her writing when she then moved to the darker side for a while with the three book Detective Rachel Hart series, published under the name of JG Roberts – not very dark though, just not quite my kind of reading. But I was delighted to rediscover her writing with My Mother’s Secret back in January this year – a heartbreaking story quite beautifully told, and a very special book indeed (you’ll find my review here). This was another I was really looking forward to…
I was so sure I saw Sophie on the beach that day. But it couldn’t be her. Sophie’s dead…
Ever since we swore to be best friends at school, Sophie was there for me. When she married my brother, she became family. We shared everything.
At least I thought we did.
After she died, I was devastated. Everyone else has moved on, but I can’t. She was so quiet, those last few months. I’m sure there is something I don’t know…
Now I’m standing on the beach we visited when we were younger, and there’s a woman with long blond hair a few metres away, playing with a dog in the sunshine. She turns, and I see Sophie.
Heart racing, I run after her, but before I can reach her she’s vanished, leaving only footprints in the sand.
It can’t be Sophie… Can it? And do I want to know, if the answer will destroy everything?
A gripping emotional page-turner about the ways we lie to ourselves and how love and hope can heal us. Fans of Amanda Prowse, Liane Moriarty and Susan Lewis will absolutely love The Woman on the Beach.
I absolutely loved this book – but have to say that I’ve really found it incredibly difficult to write a review that won’t entirely ruin the story for others. When I picked it up, all I knew about it was the book’s description – it’s really all about the afterwards, what follows after that encounter on the Mexican beach. I really must allow every reader to discover it for themselves, but I’ll happily admit that it was nothing like the book I was expecting. And lest you worry, I mean that in the best of ways – I couldn’t put the book down after its intriguing prologue and opening chapter, enjoyed every moment of its wonderful twists and turns, and when I finally reached the final page (and it might have been accompanied by a “phew!”), I could only think how very much I’d enjoyed it. Well, until I started to worry about how on earth I was going to write a review…
In 2006, Sophie, Grace and Olivia are firm friends – looking forward to a gap year of travel and adventure once they’ve received their A level results. Sophie’s certain to have done well, and does – she’s very much the golden girl, excelling at everything she turns her hand to, very much the most self-confident of the three. Olivia’s less cocky, but does well too – but then comes Grace’s turn, and her results are a disappointment. Grace’s family are less supportive – their focus is always on her brother – and she hasn’t knuckled down as she should have, finding some happiness in the company of her boyfriend, largely as an escape from her unhappy home life. She resits her exams, and joins the other two part way into their trip, when they’ve made it to Mexico – where something particularly unsettling happens, and the partying is drawn to an end.
We rejoin them over ten years later. Olivia has had a particularly rough time with the death of her father and a miscarriage, it’s fairly obvious there are significant problems with her marriage, and she decides to take a beach holiday in Mexico – it’s the one place where no-one would think to look for her, after that unfortunate experience on the earlier trip. Grace is living in Spain, where Sophie joins her to escape from a few problems of her own – but when Sophie is killed in a rail accident, Grace chooses to disappear entirely. Enough though – we’re now at the point of that encounter on the beach, and that’s when the story takes off in an entirely unexpected way…
This book really does have a bit of everything – primarily perhaps family-based drama, but a touch of psych thriller in there too, and a few serious issues handled and explored exceptionally well. If you’ve read the author’s books before, you’ll already know how superbly she handles and builds a character driven story – there are people in this book who you dislike and mistrust, only to find yourself entirely in their corner and wiping away a tear a few chapters later. Her emotional touch is quite perfect, and this book is full of heart-piercing moments – and then the story twists again and carries you away in an entirely different direction. There’s a lot about identity, trust, fresh starts, not judging from first impressions… and my goodness, I thought it was wonderful.
Do try and stay away from the reviews, dive in, and you’ll thoroughly enjoy this one – I most certainly did. You might just feel a teeny bit confused at the start while you’re trying to work out who’s who and the timelines remain entangled, but when it hits its stride the pages turn ever faster and you’ll speed through it, relishing every clever twist and turn. I so enjoy Julia Roberts’ writing – I’m already really looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next!
About the author
Julia was born in West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire, and began her career as a professional singer/dancer. This enabled her to travel the world in her late teens storing up experiences she has since included in her writing.
Following roles as a hostess on The Price is Right and a member of the Beadle’s About ‘hit squad’ in the 1980s, she became a TV Presenter and filmed features for Sky Sports before launching the QVC shopping channel in 1993 where she still presents today. Having always wanted to write, she penned her first book, a memoir sold on QVC, in 2013 and has since written seven full length novels, two novellas and several short stories.