The Red Beach Hut by Lynn Michell
Published by Linen Press
★★★ (3/5 stars)
THIS IS A SPOILER-FREE REVIEW.
My first blog tour! I’m super excited to be part of the tour for The Red Beach Hut by Lynn Michell. Thank you to author and publisher alike for my ARC, and for letting me join in on the tour fun.
Summary from Goodreads:
“Their eyes met and locked. Pulling his hand from his pocket, Neville waved. Once.”
Eight year old Neville is the first to notice that the red beach hut is occupied again.
Abbott, panicked by what he believes is a homophobic cyber attack, is on the run. The hut is his refuge and shelter.
Inevitably man and boy collide. Their fleeting friendship is poignant, honest and healing. But Abbott’s past threatens to tear him away, as others watch and self-interpret what they see.
An evocative portrayal of two outsiders who find companionship on a lonely beach, Lynn Michell’s novel is about the labels we give people who are different, and the harm that ensues.
At-a-Glance Review: The Red Beach Hut is a book about a man and a boy becoming friends over the span of a week. Though well-written, it is a slow read that isn’t as insightful or moving as I expected from previous reviews — I wanted more.
Getting through this book was a bit of a struggle for me. I was interested in the story — man and boy become unlikely friends when they need it most — and much of the writing was great. However, the story dragged when it wasn’t disjointed by time jumps.
Michell is great with description. She builds a scene really well, has you swept up and deposited on an empty beach at the end of the season in no time. Imagery wasn’t an issue while reading this book. I felt as if I were in the quiet beach town, walking along the sand and watching boats bob. I could feel Neville’s emotions through descriptions of his body language and facial features.
The time jumping was incredibly distracting. At the start of each new chapter, I had to check where in time I was against previous chapters, consciously sort through what had happened up until that point, and then read. The jumping highlighted how short a time was covered by this book, making me question Abbott’s and Neville’s friendship — it happened too quickly, everything happened too quickly.
Neville was clever and darling. I found myself speed reading through Abbott’s chapters to get to sections with Neville. He was believable, charming, interesting. His points of view were refreshing. I didn’t think that he was written too old or too young, though I wasn’t sure of his age until Abbott described him as “a boy, aged maybe seven or eight”.
Abbott, on the other hand, frustrated me constantly. While other characters remarked on him being a loving man, great at his job with troubled boys, I found him to be irresponsible and rash. His decision-making that led to him inhabiting the red beach hut was bizarre, a clear over-reaction — which he acknowledged but chose to ignore. He reminded himself time and again that he shouldn’t do certain things, but he did them anyway. His care for Neville was nice, but the rest of his character came across as out of control.
Because of Neville’s quick trust in Abbott and Abbott’s irresponsibility, I didn’t trust Abbott — which was a huge problem considering the position he was in. Some of his chapters included him mulling over said situation and how things must have looked, and I wanted to believe in him and believe what other characters described him as. But I didn’t. I kept waiting for the shoe to drop.
The ending wrapped up very quickly after the book trudged on, which was weird. I was caught off guard. The pacing of this book was hard to get comfortable with — fast in the first few scenes, very slow through the middle, and then ended all of a sudden. I do like how it ended, though. The final chapter was lovely, though I did wish for a final Neville chapter.
I think The Red Beach Hut touches on a lot of issues — homophobia, sex work, and child abuse mostly — but falls rather flat with taking them anywhere. We know that Abbott gets a lot of shit for being gay, we’re told that, but we don’t see much about how it affects him (other than him fleeing to the seaside town). The issues are brought up but left unattended, unresolved.
So, I’ve given this novel 3/5 stars. It was good. There were some things I would have changed (pacing, time jumps, leaving the social issues open ended, etc.), but I did like the story. I was touched by the chip man’s care for Neville, Neville’s quick love for Abbott, Abbott’s letter, Sharon’s points of view (her guilt, patience, and efforts). I just wanted more.
- sex work
- child abuse
- discussions of pedophilia