Thursday, August 7, 2008

"The Beach House": A Review, an interview and a warm and human story of happy endings.

There is nothing like the prospect of a good, beachy, warm-weather read. A treat in a book that will keep you looking forward to the still moments that allow you to devour a story, and its characters. If you are lucky, a good summer-book presents a feeling of contentment in your own life, even if only through minor identifications. Best selling chick-lit author, Jane Green has done it again.

I always say books choose you. I also always find myself reading more than one at a time, which makes for very interesting takes on all of them. I finished Jane Green's The Beach House while reading a clinical book on commitment phobia. Funny how that works. A few of the complicated characters in her latest novel served as role-plays or even demonstrations of the very psychology-heavy, almost text-book like pages of my other book. Jane does her research, that is for sure.

Over the years I have read seven of Jane's books. All of them made me laugh, or cry or want to get down-right lascivious. She has a subtle way of unraveling a character to you; presenting them as if through one lens, only to shake up a story with life's mishaps and fortunes. I remember reading "Jeminia J" and realizing that I actually got butterflies vicariously anticipating the first meeting of the lead character and her crush. Her words conjured up the actual feelings of unrelenting desire.

Similarly, the stories often refold and unfold; changing the shape of the character's human condition. Almost as if she opens a fictional person to you like a reflection of water..a little distorted, and fluid in concept, but always with awareness of oneself. That isn't easy. It is almost so human, that it requires incredible technical skill to allow for a reader to come to such realization through words on their own without being obvious. (I loathe obvious-staters)

After an interview with Jane, it became incredibly clear that she is candid and unapologetic, yet kind and unpretentious. When asked about "Jeminia J" she snickered that type of laugh that shrugs off the vulnerability to judgement and says:

"I was stuck in Santa Monica and absolutely miserable because I had just started this raging affair with somebody in New York who was from London..."

In an instant she had disarmed us all. To see her full back story for it, you can read the article written up in Marie Claire Magazine.

The idea of non-judgement is a good basis for the several unraveling story lines in "The Beach House". It is a story of several intrinsically valuable people stumbling through their own missteps. It is a story of "coming home" to yourself through interacting with others, and being less reactionary. One of the main characters is a native Nantucketer in her sixties. Faced with some financial woes, she decides to let her house out to vacationers. All types of emotional relationships are navigated within the walls and property of this house. It almost feels Shakespearean. A mother and her teenage daughter, dealing with divorce, a commiment-phobe and his needy girlfriend, a husband and wife dealing with big secrets and one's aching need to live free of them.

Perhaps it was her articulate descriptions of the Nantucket mindset that allows for all these near-strangers to accept and learn about each other without judgement. I won't give too much away, but it feels like a cozy warm summer night where inhibitions, and perceptions and need for approval almost dissipate into the condensation of the ocean. People learn themselves by their tying bond...being human, and wanting to improve.

When I asked Jane to explain with whom she most identified with in the characters she described her self as "softer". She went on to say:

"I think that’s probably motherhood. I think motherhood changed me in ways I could have never have anticipated. And one of those ways is no longer being afraid to show vulnerability. So I think there's a little bit of me in all of the characters."

It was quite fascinating to hear that she, being a mother, has to sequester herself at a library (never for more than 4 hours at a time) to truly produce pages. It was inspiring to learn how she is able to turn everyday life circumstances into these intricate stories that move people. She rented a house in Nantucket and ran with this book idea. She saw a woman on the beach and conjured up the multi-layered depth of "Nan". I could hear in her voice that she cherishes motherhood, and the freedom of writing and letting go of the past. Her sense of peace was palpable in the interview.

Overall, Jane Green seems incredibly fair and wisely accepting of people and life as it happens (which is usually quite unexpected and messy). When asked what she thought of bloggers she was gracious and complimentary, but also warned that

"it’s often done without thought to the impact the words may have, and that would be my only criticism. I mean I just sort of urge people to think about what they're writing, because once it’s out there, you can’t take it back."

She then went on to describe an instance when she wrote about Christie Brinkley's divorce for the Huffington Post (ahem, I'm sure mine was an example of what NOT to write) and got hundreds of comments about how "judgemental" she was being. It is a slippery slope anytime you put your thoughts out there. I am soaking slick, I imagine. She went on to explain:

"But when you think you're being responsible, you're writing about something you believe in, you're editing it as you go along, you're checking that you haven’t written anything that could be perceived as inflammatory or contemptuous, and it still is. There's only so much you can do. I mean if you put yourself out there, you're going to get feedback and not all of it is going to be good."

Well, readers....the feedback for "The Beach House" has been quite fantastic...."good "would be an understatement. I'm not going to say the book will change your life, or leave you kneeling in awe of your own epiphanies, but it just might make you more aware of that inner voice you have begging you to be more gentle. It might send you to craigslist searching for a cottage on Nantucket, or hunting down your own journey to understanding that happy endings are always there, you just have to be willing to find them.

This is a book that dives into a multitude of human conditions of the heart and ego. This is a book that will let you take deep breaths of faith in fate and full circles. Read it. Enjoy it. Be Happy.

For this book or information on all her others, visit Jane Green's website.

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