27 September 2016

Book Review: Letters from Lighthouse Cottage by Ali McNamara

"The sun is shining in the quiet little seaside town of Sandybridge

Sandybridge is the perfect English seaside town: home to gift shops, tea rooms and a fabulous fish and chip shop. And it's home to Grace - although right now, she's not too happy about it.

Grace grew up in Sandybridge, helping her parents sort junk from vintage treasures, but she always longed to escape to a bigger world. And she made it, travelling the world for her job, falling in love and starting a family. So why is she back in the tiny seaside town she'd long left behind, hanging out with Charlie, the boy who became her best friend when they were teenagers?

It turns out that travelling the world may not have been exactly what Grace needed to do. Perhaps everything she wanted has always been at home - after all, they do say that's where the heart is..."

Rating: 4/5

It's been a few years since I have read a title from Ali McNamara but there was something that drew me towards wanting to read her latest book Letters from Lighthouse Cottage. Perhaps it was the gorgeous summery cover, perhaps it was the fact that I know how much I have enjoyed her previous novels, but I dived into this one eager for a fantastic new story. Luckily it didn't disappoint, and I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end.

The story is about a character called Grace, who inherits a typewriter when doing a house clearance with her parents. It isn't her ideal job, but there is sometimes the odd treasure that Grace finds along the way, and the typewriter certainly seems to be one of those special items, especially when it starts giving Grace mysterious advice about her life, friendship with Charlie, her childhood friend and more. Many years later, Grace finds herself back in her hometown, reconnecting with old friends and family, not having achieved all the dreams she set out to. But is home where Grace really and truly belongs?

What I didn't realise when I began reading this book is there is a bit of a magical element to it, in a way. I'm not usually a fan of things that aren't believable, I prefer my novels to be something set in real life, that could really happen. However, I decided to bear with it and I am pleased that I did because the overall story was so enjoyable, and I found myself getting swept away with Grace's story, the magical element just became a odd little extra for me. It wasn't my favourite part of the book, but it was an interesting inclusion for me.

I really liked the character of Grace, even if it took me a little while to warm to her. She seemed like a bit of a whinger in parts, never happy with her lot despite the fact she had parents who loved and cared for her, a lovely best friend in Charlie, who was there no matter how many times she abandoned him for other boys, and a good life. However, as the book progresses and we find out more about the twists and turns Grace's life takes, she mellows as a character and I grew to like her more and more. By the end, I felt we saw the true Grace and liked reading her path through adulthood to arrive at being a nicer person overall.

The setting of the story mainly takes place in Sandybridge, a small sleepy seaside town with its own lighthouse, fish and chip shop, and lots of gift shops... and Grace's parents antique shop of course. I really enjoyed Ali McNamara's descriptions of the town, it sounded so quintessentially English, and a proper little seaside town, you could see why some people chose to stay there, and I couldn't fathom Grace's reluctance to go back there! I was glad though that she did, if only for the support of her family after things began to go wrong for her as an adult, as they often do in real life.

As I previously mentioned, the typewriter part of the story and what happens surrounding that was a bit of a by-product of the story for me. I enjoyed the inclusion of this, but I could have happily enjoyed the story without it. For me, it was the story, the coming-of-age of Grace and her friends, the friendships, and the feel of home about this book which I truly loved. It was a lovely book to curl up with and escape to, the setting of Sandybridge was lovely to read about, and there was a great cast of characters, my favourite being Grace's best friend Charlie... everyone needs a Charlie of their own, and I just wished that Grace had treated him a little bit better! But a good book is one that moves you and causes you to feel something towards it and its characters, and this certainly did that for me. This was a really enjoyable read, I was pleased to be back reading Ali McNamara's books and this is definitely a recommended read from me!

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