A compelling novel about family secrets and the legacy of trauma, set against the changing fortunes of an English seaside town, from award-winning writer Stella Duffy.
When Lucy discovers the body of her great aunt Kitty, with a puzzling note and empty pill bottles by her bed, she can’t believe that the formidable woman who held her family together is gone – or understand why she has taken her own life.
Lucy is determined to decipher Kitty’s final message. What she finds will overturn everything she thought she knew about her family.
Lullaby Beach takes the reader on a journey through three generations of a complicated, close-knit family whose joys and misfortunes track many of the most pressing conflicts and concerns of post-war Britain, from the promise and hypocrisies of 1950s London to the political divides and risky freedoms of the present day.
Told with the warmth, generosity and fierce passion which has won Stella Duffy so much praise over her career, Lullaby Beach is a brilliant story of loss and love, revenge and redemption.
I am sharing my review today of this extraordinary family story. Tomorrow at 7pm 8th Feb I have to complete pleasure of chatting to Stella about this book and her writing.
You can view it live here :
Three generations of women Kitty, Sara, Beth and Lucy. All from Westmere a small seaside town.
We begin the story with a tragedy, Great Niece Lucy finding Kitty dead from suicide at Lullaby Beach her home for many years.
The family cannot believe that Kitty would do this and are angry and want to try and understand why she would leave them all. When Lucy eventually gives Sara the note she found with Kitty’s body they start to uncover the life and secrets that Kitty had hidden from them all.
The story retells Kitty’s life from when she leaves Westmere as a young woman to go to London. After living in the small seaside town which feels claustrophobic and dull, she longs for excitement. That excitement appears in who she thinks is the love of her life. Danny Nelson, son of a businessman who wants to get on too. He has dreams and Kitty buys into them but ends up working really hard in a small cafe.
Danny is a really nasty piece of work, ambitious and will stop at nothing in realising his dreams. After heading to London in the 1950’s. Kitty finds out that it is not the bright lights and glamour she thought. In fact she experiences violence, coercion and fear. The glimmer of light in these turbulent times is the wonderful Ernestine, a young Jamaican woman who lives in the same house as Kitty. They become friends to Danny’s dislike but this friendship is Kitty’s saviour. Kitty’s own family are worried about her but she loves Danny.
Interwoven into Kitty’s story is her families lives and how as the strong matriarch of the family she steps into the role of mother when Beth and Sara’s own mother dies. She really is the glue that holds them all together and they are bereft when she leaves them.
Kitty’s story really resonated with me as I was brought up in a tiny village and was always desperate to escape to more exciting things. I, like Kitty found that the familarity and community can also be supportive when help is needed. Sara and Beth have their own stories too. Sara like Kitty can’t wait to escape Westmere and her ticket out is to university in Newcastle. However, the summer before she leaves she gets a job in a local business working for Mark Nelson who is the nephew of Danny. He is married and Sara thinks that the affair is not hurting anyone if people don’t find out. She heads off to university and when there discovers another side to her sexuality and is shocked when Mark appears unexpectedly. Like Danny the apples don’t fall far from the tree and he is just as vile and manipulative as his uncle.
Beth married Tim when they were young and have also had their own struggles both work hard and have another daughter Etta and Tim works for the Nelson family.
There is a twist in this story that links all the generations and is what weaves all the women together as they come out fighting to protect Lucy who has also been a victim unbeknown to the sisters. As one of three sisters I completely understood and emphasised with the sister’s actions to make sure this cycle of abuse stops.
Stella pulls no punches with this family story, it really does show how the women are manipulated and made to believe their actions have attributed to the abuse they receive, which of course as they find out is never the case. Some scenes are traumatic abortion, rape, domestic violence and loss are all portrayed sensitively but as they often are brutal and Stella does not shy away from this. This book is clever, real and so honest.
Outstanding! I could not put it down and those last few chapters are so gripping and tense. I absolutely loved it and I loved Kitty what a woman !
5 stars *****
I received my copy of the book from Net Galley and Little Brown in return for a fair and unbiased review.
About the author
Stella Duffy was born in London and grew up in Tokoroa, New Zealand. She has written sixteen novels, over sixty-five short stories, and written and devised fourteen plays. In addition to her writing work, she is also a theatremaker and the co-director and co-founder of Fun Palaces. She lives in London. In 2016 she was awarded the OBE for services to the Arts.