Review: The Cottage At Glass Beach by Heather Barbieri


Title: The Cottage At Glass Beach

Author: Heather Barbieri

Published: Harper Collins May 2012

Synopsis: Married to the youngest attorney general in Massachusetts state history, forty-year-old Nora Cunningham is a picture perfect political wife and doting mother. But her carefully constructed life falls to pieces when she -along with the rest of the world – learns of her husband Malcolm’s infidelity. Humiliated, hurt, hounded by the press, Nora packs up her daughters, Annie, seven, and Ella, twelve, and takes refuge with her maternal aunt on Burke’s Island, a craggy spit of land off the coast of Maine. Settled by Irish immigrants, the island is a place where superstition and magic are carried on the ocean winds, and wishes and dreams wash ashore with the changing tides. Nora spent her first five years on the island but has not been back to the remote community for decades-not since that long ago summer when her mother disappeared at sea. One night, while sitting alone on Glass Beach, below the cottage where she spent her childhood, Nora succumbs to grief, her tears flowing into the ocean. Days later she finds an enigmatic fisherman, Owen Kavanagh, shipwrecked on the rocks nearby. Is he, as her aunt’s friend Polly suggests, a selkie, a mythical being of island legend, summoned by her heartbreak; or simply someone who, like Nora, is trying to find his way in the wake of his own personal struggles? Just as she begins to regain her balance, her young daughters embark on a reckless odyssey of their own, a journey that will force Nora to find the courage to chart her own course-and finally face the truth about her marriage, her mother, and her past.

Status: Read from May 12 to 13, 2012 — I own a copy {Courtesy Harper Collins/Edelwiess)

My Thoughts:

I was immediately intrigued by the premise of The Cottage At Glass Beach, particularly because it hints at mystery and magical realism. It’s a combination of elements that I delight in and are guaranteed to attract my interest. Unfortunately, I was left distinctly underwhelmed by this novel, which couldn’t quite resolve into the enchanting read I hoped it would be.
While I quite liked the storyline, which is accurately described in the blurb, little was actually resolved by the end of the novel. The larger questions are left unanswered and I think some readers may dislike the ambiguity of those answers that are provided.
I found I wasn’t really able to really identify with Nora, whose passivity was draining. She rarely initiated anything despite expressing the desire to deal with her husband, and solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance and her air of detachment from everything going on around her is something that I found off putting.  While I really liked the way Barbieri portrayed the sibling relationship between Ella and Annie, individually they were just a touch too precocious, though Annie is sweet and Ella plays the part of a stroppy preteen well. Aunt Maire was my favourite character, her warmth, her regrets, her memories served to create a well rounded character that gave depth to the absent character of Norah mother, Maeve. Surprisingly Owen barely registers, he is absent from much of the story both physically and emotionally.
What I mostly struggled with while reading, was the overly formal tone of the novel. There were instances of lyrical, evocative phrasing, particularly in the descriptions of the island landscape, but the author was unable to sustain this through the book. The dialogue was often stilted, and overall The Cottage At Glass Beach just never seems to quite find its rhythm.

Available To Purchase

@ Amazon I @Book Depository

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Danielle
    May 17, 2012 @ 09:24:55

    Darn! I saw this cover the other day and was intrigued – shame it didn’t work out for you. Great, honest review though 🙂



  2. Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting
    May 17, 2012 @ 13:36:44

    Oh, I like the blurb of this one and am sorry to hear that it didn’t quite deliver. I share your dislike of passive characters, too!



  3. Patty
    May 18, 2012 @ 06:47:30

    I got mad at this book in the middle, too!



  4. Judith
    Jun 04, 2012 @ 19:51:16

    I did like this book enough for 4.5 stars. 🙂

    What I liked in particular was the way the setting (sea, rocks, island, boats) was described – I felt like I was there. I agree that the storyline wasn’t very strong but I didn’t mind that not all was resolved at the end.

    I think Nora was angry and /or grieving the breakup with her husband so she had very little energy to think about other things. I found her quite convincing although I also didn’t feel close to her.



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