The Summer Place by Janette Paul

Reviewed by Wendy Lipke

This internationally published author, writing under the pen name Janette Paul, has once again provided an enjoyable read for those looking for contemporary women’s fiction and romantic comedy which she writes. She is a former news and sports journalist who also writes suspense novels under the name Jaye Ford.

The story, The Summer Place, is divided into seven parts, each following the lives of three women, when they are invited to a beach wedding at the lovely Hope Head situated in New South Wales, where they had spent their summer holidays.

Part One introduces Erin, Jenna and Cassie, when they receive invitations to the wedding of Blake and his American girlfriend, the lovely fresh and positive Ashley. Erin is Blake’s sister, whose memories of Hope Head remind her of what she was able to do before the tragic accident left her scarred and angry. Jenna and the nine first year engineering students, who had become her tribe, had gone to Hope Head on a university break, where she had fallen in love with fellow student Blake. How will she cope seeing him marry someone else? Cassie, older than the other two, had lost her ability to paint during her three marriages. A friend of Blake and Erin’s mother, Joanne, Cassie had become Aunt Cassie to the younger generation. She now works in an art gallery in Barcelona.

The author then takes the reader through the thoughts and fears of each of these characters as they progress through the reasons why they do not want to attend this occasion yet feel a yearning for past happier times. Hope Head seemed to mean many things to many people and ‘was the background to them all. Sand, surf, sunshine’ (31).

The following parts address their actions leading up to sending their RSVPs; their individual arrivals at Hope Head; their involvement in the preparations for this casual wedding; the wedding itself and the reception which follows. The final part looks at where the key characters are,  five months later.

The descriptions of the environment make this location sound like a magical place. It is no wonder the protagonists could not hold out against its allure. The three main characters, though not happy in themselves, are easy to like. So too are the various minor players who support them in the story. There is wisdom to be found in these many personalities and a friendliness often missing in today’s busy world. The setting, Hope Head, is cleverly named as over the space of a few days, hope spreads its arms out to those who need it most.

The storyline is somewhat predictable but the details and the journey itself are enjoyable and humorous in parts although heart wrenching in others. The reader wants the characters already met, to find their happiness and progress with their lives. This is a very human story to which all readers can relate. I thoroughly enjoyed travelling with each of the characters as they overcame their fears and disappointments and found what they were looking for, even if they were unaware of what that was until Hope Head weaved its magic.

In the Acknowledgements section the author explains that she never planned to write this story. The characters just arrived and wouldn’t go away. So, she put on hold the story in progress to attend to them. They obviously felt that they had a message for the reader and there is much we can learn from the people in this tale.

The Summer Place

by Janette Paul


Pan Macmillan

ISBN: 978-1-76126-390-3

$ 34.99; 382pp

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