Tuesday 16 August 2022

The Family Retreat by Bev Thomas BLOG TOUR #TheFamilyRetreat @BevThomas20 @FaberBooks @portassoph #BookReview


When Rob decides the family needs to get away for the summer Jess is not convinced - won't all the things they're escaping be waiting for them on their return? But the kids are thrilled, and before long their idyllic little cottage, the sea air, and the feel of skin sticky from sun-cream, lollies and sand, begins to work its magic. Jess allows herself to sink into the holiday vibes - the family even make holiday friends.

The summer heat intensifies Jess - ever vigilant - unearths a secret, a problem she's sure she can help solve. But things are not always as they seem. The water may look inviting but even the gentlest looking waves can hide the deadliest undercurrents.

As autumn approaches, Jess - and the reader - will come to realise this is going to end in a way no-one could have imagined...

The Family Retreat by Bev Thomas is published by Faber on 25 August 2022. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review, as part of this Blog Tour. 

Back in April 2019 I read Bev Thomas' debut novel, A Good Enough Mother. That book astounded me, I was totally enthralled by it and it went on to become one of my top books of that year. 
It's been a long time since that book and I was delighted to find that Thomas had published her second novel; The Family Retreat.

Just like her debut, this book is fairly short at just over 300 pages long, and just like the other one, this is packed with evocative and emotional writing. This author draws on her own experiences as a counsellor to deliver a story that packs such a punch, and one that left me reeling in parts. 

Jess and Rob have decided to spend the summer in a cottage by the sea. Jess works as a GP in an inner-London surgery where she often takes on too much, and gets far too emotionally involved in the lives of her patients. The reader is aware that Jess is currently not working, but it takes some time for us to know why. Rob is a script writer, always on the verge of great things, currently working on the script that will make his name. From the outside, this couple and their two small children appear happy and carefree, but the inner turmoils that they face daily are slowly simmering toward the surface. 

There's a small community in the holiday cottages and Jess feels drawn towards Helen whose family are also staying for the summer. Helen is nothing like Jess, she's practical and orderly and neat. Their families are similar, with sparkly attractive parents, and a boy and a girl each, but the two women are very different in outlook. However, as they spend more time together, Jess learns more about Helen. 

There are many strands to this story, not only is Jess dealing with the fallout from her workplace, she's also having to cope with the increasingly strange behaviour of her elderly father. There's quite a lot of foreshadowing within this story, the reader is perfectly aware that something terrible is about to blow these families apart, but we are never quite sure what is going to occur. When it does happen, it's shocking and dark and the passages that deal with it made my heart pound with fear. It's a quiet book and then wham! the reader is knocked sideways by unexpected and horrific revelations and events that change everyone. 

For me, the creeping fear and tension created by Jess's thoughts really made the book work. I liked the fact that I knew that something was going to happen, I loved the slow exploration of events and the fact that what seemed to be the obvious conclusion really wasn't. 

I've waited a long time for this book and it has most certainly been worth it. Bev Thomas is a talented author whose descriptive prose, powerful characters and incredible insight into the human mind really appeals and pleases me.  Love it, highly recommended. 

Bev was a clinical psychologist in the NHS for many years. She currently works as an organizational consultant in mental health and other services. 

She lives in London with her family.

Twitter @BevThomas20

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