3 out of 4 stars
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Bea Green’s Trenouth is a work of fiction set in Cornwall, England. It tells the story of Elinor Campbell, an artist in her late twenties. She is a young woman who has experienced the sudden death of her fiancé a year previously and, unsurprisingly, has been left with emotional scars. She is recovering from a nervous breakdown and has left her home in Scotland to spend time with her seventy-year-old uncle, Leo Jago. He lives in a cliff-top cottage called ‘Trenouth’ in Warren Cove on the rugged Cornish coastline. Elinor’s hope is that a change of scene will help her recover from the debilitating feelings of anxiety and panic that have plagued her since her fiancé’s fatal accident.
The story opens in dramatic fashion. In the middle of a howling Cornish storm, in the early hours of the morning, someone is hammering on the front door of Leo’s cottage. Elinor is petrified as her uncle goes to answer the door. Six young men stand on the doorstep, soaked through, shoeless, and without a word of English between them. Leo provides them with dry clothes and a hot drink before phoning the police. An hour later, immigration officials arrive and take the young men away.
It is the first of several odd events that occur in the following weeks that make Leo wonder if the age-old Cornish tradition of smuggling has been updated to incorporate something more sinister. At first, Elinor is too preoccupied to worry about this. Her attention is focused on exploring the Cornish coast, learning to surf, and starting to paint again. Then there is her growing friendship with a young doctor called Tony. He is obviously attracted to Elinor, but is she ready for another relationship at this time? Will it help or hinder her recovery?
I really enjoyed the depiction of Cornwall in this novel. The author captures vividly the wild coastline and the crashing Atlantic waves that make the place a great draw for surfers. The energy of the dramatic landscape reflects the drama playing out in Elinor’s head, as she struggles to control her fears. Beyond the landscape, the author also captures the essential Celtic aura that surrounds Cornwall, with all its mythology, history, and language. She conveys the sense of timelessness that pervades the place. The rhythm of life is slow in Warren Cove, the pace of change even slower. Elinor’s story unfolds in this same unhurried fashion.
I was less keen on the novel’s rather narrow focus. By that, I mean that the story is told exclusively in the third-person from Elinor’s point of view. On the one hand, this gives the reader a very strong sense of what Elinor is feeling and an insight into the internal battles she is fighting. It also means, however, that we see other characters only through her eyes. Some fare better than others from this approach. Leo and Elinor’s friend and fellow-artist Barbara Bligh, for example, are relatable, well-developed characters. Others, perhaps, do not leap off the page with quite the same intensity.
I am awarding this novel 3 out of 4 stars, deducting one star for the narrow focus mentioned above. The book has been professionally edited, as I found only three very minor errors in a work of over three hundred pages. The story is suitable for older teenagers and above. There are a few curse words uttered by the various characters, but they are very much at the lower end of the swearing spectrum. There are one or two scenes that involve sex but these are mild enough not to frighten the horses. Readers who enjoy slow-burning novels laced with romance and mystery should like this one.
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