Today it is my pleasure to be sharing my thoughts on The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings. I’ve had this on my shelf for far too long and decided that it was time to ‘read the book.’ By that I mean that it became one of my daily walk audiobooks, and what great company it was too. Here’s what the book is all about:
About the Book
The next gripping and emotional family drama from Amanda Jennings, THE STORM, is available in July 2020!Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Hive | Googleplay | Apple Books
Cornwall, summer of 1986.
The Davenports, with their fast cars and glamorous clothes, living the dream in a breathtaking house overlooking the sea.
If only… thinks sixteen-year-old Tamsyn, her binoculars trained on the perfect family in their perfect home.
If only her life was as perfect as theirs.
If only Edie Davenport would be her friend.
If only she lived at The Cliff House…
Amanda Jennings weaves a haunting tale of obsession, loss and longing, set against the brooding North Cornish coastline, destined to stay with readers long after the final page is turned.
If there is one thing you are assured of when picking up a book by Amanda Jennings it is that you are going to be taken on a journey, one that is beset with haunting imagery and language, and that will bring out a myriad of emotions. The Cliff House is yet again such a book, one which speaks of family, emotional connections, loss, grief, envy and prejudice , all set within a tight knit Cornish community. A tall order for any book to pull all of that off, but an order which is delivered in style from the author’s very safe hands.
This is the story of Tamsyn, a teenager who has learned all about loss at far too young an age following the death of her father. This loss is something she has never gotten over and due to her grief and her unwavering love for her father, she forms deep emotional attachments to anything that reminds her of him. There are two things in her town that bring forth memories more than any other. One is the sea, the dangerous waters that claimed his life as he attempted to save others. The other… The Cliff House. Her father had created such a romantic view of the house in her mind, telling her time and again that one day they would all live their together, that spending time there brings her closer to him than any other place. She spends as much time there as she can, sneaking in when the house is unattended which is often as its owners live in London. All is fine until one fateful summer when the house isn’t empty anymore and Tamsyn finds herself at the heart of a very complicated and fractious family dynamic as she strives to become friends with the owner’s daughter, Edie, the one person she feels finally sees and accepts her for who she is.
Tamsyn is a very complex character and the author has done a brilliant job of capturing her broken spirit and increasingly obsessive nature. Like many teenagers she wants things to remain the way they are, begrudging her mother any chance of happiness and friendship with others as she wants to protect her father’s memory. Quite natural you may thing. Until you realise that Tamsyn is 16. Her jealousy and anger go unchecked, something which begins to feed the dark undertone of the story. She is the odd girl, the person who never quite fits. Governed by her emotions, she lives in an almost fantasy existence which is vidily painted on the page. I felt a strange blend of empathy and dislike for her at varying points in the book. She is a deeply troubled young girl who needed proper help. There are good reasons behind her nature and she has a truly heart wrenching backstory, but beyond her naivety, her immaturity, there was just something which kept me on edge. A sense that everything was building towards some inevitable tragedy involving the poor girl.
Edie is equally as troubled a character and for all her swagger and bravado, she is as broken as Tamsyn. Amanda Jennings has created the perfect spoiled rich girl whose attitude and confidence hide the dark truth of her home life. I love the way in which the author has a knack for turning things on their head. For holding a magnifying glass to the oh too glossy veneer of the perfect family and showing you the tiny cracks in the porcelain lie beneath it. Cracks that with the right build up of pressure grow and expand, leading to the threat of a complete collapse. And that is exactly what happens over that fated summer. I will be honest and say that I felt perhaps more for Edie than I did Tamsyn. Seeing how she struggled to hide her dark family secrets, the fact that everything about her was a front designed to deflect, to keep others at bay. There was a real feeling that the friendship with Tamsyn was as important to Edie as it was the other way around. To be honest, all of the characters, so rich in terms of diversity and authenticity, are bearing their own scars, but some do better than others at hiding them.
Now this is not a fast paced book, it is not meant to be. It is a story of a community and of two very polar families, a tale that is rich in atmosphere, something that this author develops perfectly. From the haunting setting of coastal Cornwall, the sense of the small town community and through to the opulence of The Cliff House, she has created such vivid imagery you can almost feel that you are there – feel the salt spray of the water against your face. The book looks deeply and the themes of loss and of grief, but not only the kind of grief that stems from the death of a loved one. But at the heart of it all is obsession, and it is from this that the real darkness stems. Recommended for lovers of haunting and evocative family based dramas.
About the Author
Amanda Jennings lives in Oxfordshire with her husband, three daughters, and a menagerie of animals. She studied History of Art at Cambridge and before writing her first book, was a researcher at the BBC. With a deep fascination for the far-reaching effects of trauma, her books focus on the different ways people find to cope with loss, as well as the moral struggles her protagonists face. When she isn’t writing she can usually be found walking the dog. Her favourite place to be is up a mountain or beside the sea.