What does a rather spooky, crumbling pile, of a once stately house, in the back end of the Cornish nowhere have to do with: a family that used to spend their summers there, a Tory MP, a scandal, an Hollywood Actor, Alzheimer’s, a love story from the 17th Century and a Metaphysical Poet?
They are all strands, that cleverly come together in the brilliant new novel by Liz Fenwick, "One Cornish Summer". I can highly recommend this as both an interesting yet easy read – one that I didn’t want to put down but was really sad to have finished.
As they say, you can’t choose your family....but you can choose your books!
I started reading novels by Liz Fenwick as 1. I used to be her neighbour and 2. I absolutely love the area of which she writes.
Those reasons are still there but now I read Liz’s books as she has, book by book, steadily grown to be one of my favourite Authors and I really look forward to each new publication.
Therefore, I greedily grabbed an advance copy of One Cornish Summer and said goodbye to a couple of early nights and my weekend. If I hadn’t have had other things to do I think I would have picked it up and not moved until I turned the last page.
Although Liz’s books are marketed toward the Romantic end of the Fiction spectrum, they have grown into so much more than that and I love the more literary aspects. You can certainly tell when an Author enjoys their research and has a genuine interest in their subject.
Where Liz and I most definitely meet is our love of Cornwall, specifically The Lizard. The history that has created the land and echoed through the crumbling buildings. How the past impacts the present and what has changed and what has stayed exactly the same. How people lived and how they live now.
In a way this is a massive book with lots of themes that are cleverly woven together to create a story that can be read on many levels and depths.
There are many relationships. Some past, some present, some healthy, some toxic but never mushy or laboured.
One Cornish Summer is a story of generations – ones that have to put their ‘history’ behind them, to support Hebe, who is suffering the effects of early-onset Alzheimer’s. If you want to understand what a relative of yours is going through, read this book. It may give you an insight, and understanding, that you didn’t previously have.
An Academic and Historian, Hebe has an hidden Love, one that is tethered by a shared love of the poetry of John Donne. Donne is quoted extensively, throughout this novel, but with a sensitive, light touch and only where appropriate.
Love, in all its forms, is a constant, multi-layered theme which runs throughout this story. From Thomas Grylls and his unavailable love, Lucia, in the 1600s, whom Hebe has made her life’s research, to the present day with 28 year old Lucy, whose love life is somewhat erratic and complicated. In part, influenced by a shocking incident in her past at Helwyn House, which she thinks of as Hell House, for many reasons. Not the least as it is practically falling down.
Horrified, when Hebe buys Hell House, which used to belong to Thomas Grylls, for an extortionate sum, Lucy, running away from her present, has to face the ghosts of her past – both real and imagined.
This is a story of fractures. Hebe’s now fractured brain and her all-consuming one love which she breaks for the best of reasons, a family fractured by several events in the past, an historical story that doesn’t quite have all the pieces and a cracked and crumbling, once majestic house by the side of a beautiful, if remote, creek, that flows into the sea.
As Helwyn House is gradually restored, can the family find their own more solid foundation for the future and will the house give up some of its secrets?
One Cornish Summer is a beautifully written book, located in a beautiful part of Cornwall. If you wanted to you could actually stay in The Ducks House, at Sailaway, St. Anthony, where Hebe and Lucy stay until they move into Helwyn House, or The Farmhouse where a Hollywood actor has set up camp, after being thwarted by Hebe buying the property that he also wanted, for his own reasons...
The beach at St. Anthony was where my little Cornish puppy, Mabel, had her first taste of sand and sea, carefully looked after by her big sisters, and I enjoyed many walks along the creek and on the beach.
"Beach At St. Anthony" Painting by Tracey Edges
You don’t need to have experienced the area for yourself though as Liz Fenwick paints a true idyllic picture, which always invokes the landscape, the seasons and the people, perfectly.
If you do go for a visit, you can always pop into The New Inn at Manaccan, The Shipwrights at Helford or The Helford River Sailing Club.
Helwyn House is based on the National Trust property, Godolphin House, nr. Helston, albeit somewhat relocated.
Forget Du Maurier Country – the south bank of The Helford River is now, most definitely, Fenwick Country. Book a tour!
Find out all about Liz Fenwick at: www.lizfenwick.com or follow her on Twitter: @liz_fenwick and www.facebook.com/liz.fenwick.author
As well as good bookshops, Liz’s books can be found on your local Amazon.
One Cornish Summer, by Liz Fenwick is published, by Orion, on March 8th 2018.