Book Review: The Lemon Grove

the Lemon GroveThe Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh

The blurb:  Sun. Desire. Obsession. An explosive, intelligent novel from the prize-winning author of Brass.

One hot summer. One week in a villa on the outskirts of Deia, a village nestling in the rugged, mountainous west coast of the island of Mallorca. One family for whom the carefully laid jigsaw of life is about to be broken.

Jenn and her husband Greg holiday each year in Deia, enjoying languorous afternoons by the pool. But this year the equilibrium is upset by the arrival of Emma, Jenn’s stepdaughter, and her boyfriend Nathan. Beautiful and reckless, Nathan stirs something unexpected in Jenn. As she is increasingly seduced by the notion of Nathan’s youth and the promise of passion, the line between desire and obsession begins to blur. What follows is a highly-charged liaison that put lives and relationships in jeopardy, and a taut narrative which percolates with enough sexual tension to make it impossible to put down.

My review: I’m split with this book. On the one hand I loved the evocative beautiful locations, I was literally transported to previous summer holidays in secluded villas where you’re wrapped up in a bubble of otherwordly-ness, the sense that it belongs to you, a feeling that you would fight to sustain. The heat and the seclusion being the perfect time to reflect on the troubles in your life. Such a perfect set up for a novel.

But then on the other hand this book just didn’t deliver for me. It seemed it had so much potential, so much great material set up for emotional explosions and then it all just went south and became all about the sex. Jenn’s relationship issues with her step-daughter could’ve been so emotive and interesting, her guilt at her affair seemed poorly drawn (maybe she just wasn’t guilty!) and her inner-turmoil a brief flash  before being swept away, the sexual tension barely there and her previous pre-marriage life had so much mileage for exploration.

But I felt all these harrowing, emotive topics that fit with the seclusion and protective possession of the landscape became merely side-notes as soon as sex was on the table (and everywhere else.) I am by no means prudish when I come to my reading but do beware if you’re not a fan of graphic descriptions.  All the inner turmoil seemed to be shrugged off in favour of juicier sex scenes which have their place if there’s the story in place to support them which I personally just didn’t think had been developed enough. The cover I think tells a different tale to the one between the pages.

But this is a beautifully written book, and there have been many great reviews about it already, perhaps it’s just not one for me.


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