4 out of 4 stars
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Written by Maura Satchell, The Gray Lady of Long Branch: If Walls Could Talk is about a Victorian beach house in Long Branch, New Jersey and the lives of its inhabitants since the 1950s.
Though I read the description beforehand as I always do, my reaction when I finished the first paragraph of this story was.. 'What?!' followed by 'Now, that's interesting. I think I'd like it’ and I did.
Told in the first person by the main character, the beach house itself, the story began with the lives of the first owners of the house, the Prescotts: George and Grace and their sons, Jeff and Lyden.
Grace was enjoying the luxurious life of a banker's wife and mother to two 'picture-perfect' boys when she learned the ugly truth about her husband's involvement with the Germans and the war in general. The beach house described how Grace settled the matter as she knew best.
The story then picked up at the arrival of the pleasant and lively John and Mary DiStefano. The couple, who lived in Northern New Jersey for the most part of the year, bought the beach house to rent to vacationers or to stay in during the summer season. Though the story primarily centered on the lives of John and Mary and their darling of a daughter Emily and pistol of a son, Vinny, it also featured some slivers of the lives of the house's guests.
There were Helen and Walter Mosley who were burdened with a tragedy that tore them apart. Then there were the Woodstock six who left a bloody memento of their temporary residence at the beach house. Also, there was Ellen, with her son Kevin, who ran away from her abusive husband Jake.
To make it all the more interesting, the author threw in some world events like the death of Princess Diana, the Y2K and the 9/11 and successfully wove one big enjoyable story. Moreover, as a finishing touch, Ms. Satchell disclosed the final and most shocking revelation in the last chapter that made me revert to my first reaction, 'What?!'.
All in all, I love this book. It is warm, funny, informative and with just the right amount of drama in the later chapters. Though there are some parts that may seem boring, they are relevant to the story thus the inclusion.
However, I noticed a minor inconsistency when Emily and Gerard went out on a picnic. Considering that the narrator was the house and therefore immobile, there was no way it could tell what happened at the beach.
Aside from that 'slip', I enjoyed every page of the book so I give it a rate of 4 out of 4 stars. If you are into familial love, a little touch of romance and a brush of history, you may enjoy this book as much as I did.
The Gray Lady of Long Branch
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