The Beach Hut by Cassandra Parkin
Published by Legend Press in 2015
My copy: Secondhand copy
It is autumn time and on a peaceful Cornish beach, Finn and his sister Ava defy planning regulations and achieve a childhood dream when they build themselves an illegal beach hut. This tiny haven will be their home until Ava departs at Midwinter for a round-the-world adventure. In the town, local publican Donald is determined to get rid of them. Still mourning the death of his wife, all he wants is a quiet place where he can forget the past and raise his daughter Alicia in safety. But Alicia is wrestling with demons of her own. As the sunshine fades and winter approaches, the beach hut stirs old memories for everyone. Their lives become entwined in surprising ways and the secrets of past and present are finally exposed.
I very recently read – and enjoyed – The Summer We All Ran Away, the first novel by Cassandra Parkin, and as I’d enjoyed this so much I decided to buy her second novel.
Ava and Finn are siblings who have been joined at the hip throughout their lives, particularly following the deaths of their parents when they were in and out of foster homes. Their current stop is an illegally built beach hut, where they plan to stay for a few months before Ava goes off to travel the world. But the locals are divided on their presence, particularly ex-copper Donald and his teenage daughter Alicia.
I found this book very easy and enjoyable to read, and I whizzed through it in just over a day. I found the story interesting and gripping, and I loved Ava and Finn who seemed very believable. I also liked the relationship between Alicia and her father, which was strained yet loving, which I think is probably quite an accurate depiction of a 15-year-old living with just her father. You could see why Alicia was drawn to Finn and Ava, and I liked the way they were so open to her becoming a part of their lives.
However there were some parts of the book that I didn’t enjoy so much. I did feel parts of the story were unrealistic, and there were a few other things that didn’t quite work for me either. Finn is a budding fairytale writer, and some of his short stories intersperse the narrative here, and although these little stories give some insight into characters in the book, they did jar with me a bit and I found myself skimming them as the novel progressed. I also found Donald’s back story a bit random and unnecessary – in fact there is a whole chapter of the book that turns into an episode of Eastenders, and this really did nothing for me. And the ending seemed a bit abrupt too – although it was very sad and I did have a tear in my eye! But I didn’t feel Alicia’s story had a real ending, which was a shame.
Despite these criticisms, overall I did enjoy this book, and even though some parts didn’t always work that well for me, I still carried on reading it and never lost interest in the main story. I could have done with a few bits being left out, but overall this was quite a unique, readable story with good characters and an interesting plot.