Synopsis of the book:
In 1963 when Dawn Stephens is just 14 her Mum and Dad are killed in an air-crash. Being an only child her nearest family is in Sturvendor in Somerset her Aunt Fran so she makes the trip from Canada to join her. Aunt Fran has a daughter Serena who is Dawn's age and the two of them although strangers are now to share a bedroom in this seaside town. Dawn is very shy, quite and grieving and finds this new home while welcoming hard to get used and is only a very average pupil at the local school.
The only thing she excels in at school is Drama and after a successful school play she decides when she is older she is going to be an actor. And while she still feels lonely her friendship with Serena does improve and she learns she can confide her feelings with her.
However as she starts to settle into her new life she discovers a bay that is secluded and hard to excess from the land and this becomes her secret and she names it Seagull Bay. Here she can be alone with her thoughts until one day a visitor arrives by boat and she is upset by this intruder onto her special place. Then this very confident and almost arrogant young man she finds is called Sandy Collins starts to be a guest at her home invited by her Uncle. And while she is horrified by him she is also intrigued by his care free attitude to life, something she has never experienced before. Over time she starts to fall in love with this charismatic man.
==My thoughts on this novel:==
I thought this was a very good piece of romantic fiction. It was full of adventure and I really enjoyed the excellent story line. This is not my first experience of Janet Tanner's work as I had read and enjoyed the two previous books from her. The only criticism I had about these where they where both about different women who lived in Australia in the 1900's struggling on their own having suffered bereavement. And while this story dealt with Dawn losing her parents it was set in this country and in the swinging sixties.
For me there is a real quality about this author's work. I find her description of scenes excellent and this really helps me to feel I am witnessing the scene she is describing. In all the books she has written that I have read I find she is very good at expressing the lead characters thoughts and feelings. And given the sad and lonely situation Dawn finds herself in I found it was very easy to sympathise with her and want her to settle into her new life and find some happiness.
I have not read anything from Janet Tanner for about a year, so I was looking forward to starting this one. This is her latest offering and is her 31st novel and was written in 2010. I found this one in a local charity shop and at just one pound I felt with some confidence that I would enjoy this ladies newest book.
And having looked at the cover of the book I had the feeling this would be a similar romance that I had enjoyed previously as it had a silhouette of a young couple in the moonlight with the sea behind them (but no Seagull in sight!!). So I flicked the nook over and read the two paragraph summary. This sounded good and I liked the idea of Dawn starting a new life although in very sad circumstances. Below the summary where three compliments about this author's work one about this book and the other two about her other books. I have never seen this before they are either all about the book you are about to read, which I think is very useful or all about the author's work in general, which I think is very unhelpful.
What I found unusual when I first settled down to read this book was before the first chapter was the author's notes. I found this very interesting as it was the background to this story and I was fascinated that this story was written back in 1971 and hidden in the author's attic for many years. And while she never forgot about it it was only recently she thought it should be released for her readers to enjoy.
So when I started to actually read the first chapter I was curious about why it was left unpublished for so long. I very quickly got into the story as it told of her tragedy of losing her parents and having to leave all she knew in Canada behind her. As a result of some great insight into her character I immediately took a liking to her and wanted her to settle and turn her very unhappy life around.
I found I liked the idea of this special secret place Dawn had discovered and even when she discovered her talent for acting she came back to Seagull Bay to practice her lines knowing she would be able to do it without anyone around. So I understood her annoyance when a young man turned up at her Bay one day, especially as he seemed a little unusual and different from the usual lads she had met before.
While at this stage the story was quite gentle and developed slowly I enjoyed the direction it was headed. But this new stranger that Dawn was to meet and ultimately fall in love with Sandy always presented something new, different and exciting and as Dawn didn't really know what he would do next neither did the reader and it was quite interesting. As the story took for me a series of unexpected turns that where infinitely believable and made sense given their relationship, her character and the time they were living in.
It was only as the story unfolded and their relationship intensified that I started to become a little frustrated with Dawn's blind love for Sandy when I always felt he was not only using her but holding her development back, but then as they say love is blind. I wanted her to be successful in her career and I felt her love for Sandy was never a love that would last a lifetime. Although at the same time I did enjoy the crisp situations they found themselves in and how their love changed.
The story was a real roller-coaster of emotions and feelings that always had me on tender-hooks. It was a story I was never sure if it would end up with a happy or sad ending as so much happened to Dawn and she went through so much. With an ending that was in keeping with what had happened previously in the story and one that left even me with a watering to the eyes. I will say no more than that you will have to read it if you want to know if it is happy or sad in the end.
Part of Janet Tanner's skill for me is the very down to earth stories she writes. About normal everyday people who have had to deal with tragedy and demonstrating with a lot of understanding and compassion how they feel. In this case it was Dawn and I found her fascinating and wanted only the best for her given what she had been through. But it was never going to be that simple or obvious as that. She was going to have lots of ups and downs in an uncertain world where her strong emotions would always influence what happened to her. She was cleverly written for and I felt a real understanding the majority of the book for her emotions and desires.
She was supported for a good range of support characters all of which had differing personalities. I liked the way these kept returning to the story and Dawn was always drawn back to both them and Sturvendor. I always enjoyed the friendship she had with Serena and the interaction between the two as their lives took some unexpected turns as they grew up.
The only character that annoyed me was Sandy, but I suppose it wasn't him it was the way Dawn would blindly follow him. I just wondered if this lady who had been through so much could still be madly in love when him when they were so different in character and I could not see him changing his ways and settle down for a normal life with her.
I thought the length of the story was a little short as I really wanted to know what happened next to the main characters, but at the same time it seemed a good point to leave to story too. That is not to say I did not enjoy it, the wonderful descriptions of characters, feelings and scenes where full of quality and depth. It was the type of story that was so easy to enjoy and I found I read this book in just two days and was really sad it was over and I would have to try something else.
I thought this was a first class romantic adventure and as such I would highly recommend it. As it has lots of highs and lows that really bring out the feelings of the reader. It was basically a interesting story that took several unexpected turns, with a very good lead character who was so easy to like and empathise with. For me one of the best novels I have read this year.
Year first Published: 2010
More about the author: www.janettanner.co.uk
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.
© CPTDANIELS January 2012.