You can tell just from the cover of this book that The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh is the ultimate summer read. I’m currently off work on a staycation but my other half is working crazy hours so mostly I’ve been at home, reading. Living vicariously through fictional characters is my thing!
Every summer, Jenn and her husband Greg holiday in the stylish Deia, Mallorca. This year Jenn feels anxious over the arrival of Emma, her 15-year-old stepdaughter and for the first time, Emma’s boyfriend. Since Emma has entered her teenage years, Jenn feels increasing pushed out by her. She struggles to rise above her teenage strops and the way that she seems to be able to easily manipulate her father. Equally, Greg is hesitant to welcome the boyfriend, 17-year-old Nathan. His presence brings into stark reality that Emma is no longer a child.
However, Jenn’s keeness to bring herself into Emma’s affections are overshadowed when she meets Nathan for the first time. Her desire for her daughter’s boyfriend overtakes her and makes her reckless. Her pursuit of him is at first tacit, quickly becoming reciprocated and she embarks on a torrid affair with him under her husband and step-daughter’s noses.
As unbelievable as Jenn’s willingness to throw caution (and her already fragile relationships) to the wind seems, Walsh creates a sun-dazed world in which fantasy and reality are tantalisingly mixed. It’s true that the character of Nathan does not ring true at all – he is not like any 17-year-old I have ever come across, but this adds to the sense of wild abandonment of reality. Despite the well-worn tale of inappropriate dalliances, The Lemon Grove is an intelligent critique of the bored middle-classes abroad and strained family dynamics. It’s a sultry summer read that will surely top the poolside best seller’s list.