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July 13, 2024

Novel Lives

Book Publicity, Book Reviews, And Author Interviews

Five Reasons To Read The Vacation House By Jane Shemilt

The Vacation House By Jane Shemilt- Summary

Goodreads summary of The Vacation House by Jane Shemilt (review below):

Two women. Two secrets. One terrible night.

PAXOS, GREECE
Her vacation house is a luxurious getaway for a wealthy English family, with windows open to the sun and the sea, a sparkling swimming pool, and a verdant garden. One hot summer night, while the parents and their friends drink wine and amuse themselves, a young woman—the teenage daughter of the Greek caretaker—ventures for a walk on their private beach. Her life will never be the same again.

LONDON, ENGLAND, TEN YEARS LATER
Julia is the perfect spouse and mother. Slender, blonde, and expensively dressed, she’s the classic “yummy mummy” of high cook, organizer, arm candy, and speechwriter to her influential husband. But behind her winning smile is a stifled woman trapped in a gilded cage, stricken with anxiety and perfectionism. When Julia meets Laurel, a therapist who promises to help her find fulfillment, Julia opens herself up to the hope of a different future.

BOUND BY THE PAST
What happened in Greece all those years ago that binds these two women together? And will uncovering the truth destroy everything… or set them free?

The Edgar-nominated, #1 internationally bestselling author of The Daughter and The Playground weaves a breathtaking tale of betrayal, family, and secrets from the past in this crackling novel of psychological suspense.

Reason #1- Themes

Anyone who has visited my site regularly knows I have a special place in my heart for female thriller writers who weave in women’s issues without them taking over the book. Jane Shemilt is now on that list of authors with The Vacation House. As adults, there is PTSD from childhood trauma. Additionally, she explores how children are treated by their parents that follow into adulthood. Moreover, she delves into childhood abuse, rape, and the sexual exploitation of one father’s daughter.

Lastly, Jane Shemilt goes into victim shaming, how the rich cover up sexual crimes against a girl to protect their reputation. And how easy it is to do so.

These themes are well explored with characters, as children and later as adults. It is handled admirably, with due sensitivity. Furthermore, it isn’t just brought up on a surface level. The consideration and probing manner in which Jane Shemilt attacks them is profound.

Reason #2- Setting

This isn’t the usual reason to choose a setting as a reason to read a book. It isn’t that the setting becomes a character in The Vacation House. However, it does serve an essential purpose. The luxurious getaway in Greece highlights the social class dividing line. Two families live there. One is there to serve. The other is there to lavish in the splendor of their privilege. Privilege that blinds them to what is happening to the family that serves them.

It also serves the opposite purpose. Jane Shemilt leads us on a journey where those two girls from entirely different social classes suffer sexual abuse. One by a father’s need to use her to bolster his standing among other wealthy, high-status men. And the other by two privileged boys who think they have a right to take whatever they want, even a girl’s body.

Reason #3- Suspense

The Vacation House never shorts readers on the level of suspense and thrills throughout the story. The structure is one of my favorites, told by the two girls at different times. Sophia, the girl from the servant family, tells her story from the perspective of the past. At the same time, Julia tells her story during present times. Because Julia is spoken of during Sophia’s chapters, you know the two timelines are connected. The whys and hows are suspenseful, with many twists throughout the story that lead to a shocking ending. There are one or two parts you might figure out, but there are many that give a pretzel-like twist.

The Vacation House by Jane Shemilt Summary Review

Thank you to William Morrow and Harper Audio for an advance copy of The Vacation House by Jane Hemilt, releasing on December 26.

Reason #4- Characters

Julia and Sophia are both empathetic characters. I didn’t expect to feel sympathy for Julia at first. You know she was privileged as a child and now lives in luxury with her husband and daughter. As the story unfolds, this changes. You begin to learn of a traumatic childhood, which has led to many complications for her as an adult. That is compounded by a marriage that might seem perfect on the outside yet is anything but. Jane Shemilt writes a marriage that is cracked and rocky. The husband is controlling and demanding. His expectations of perfection are a high price for Julia to pay. In addition, his sexual proclivities are something that harkens back to Julia’s trauma and her current desire to please him, more as a transactional act.

Sophia is a highly sympathetic character from the start. She loves her family and even takes a certain amount of joy in working to make everything perfect for Julia’s family. When a traumatic sexual act destroys it, everything falls apart for her. Sophia’s life, her family, and life’s simplicities are yanked away. It is a brutal scene to read, with a story arc that will break your heart.

Reason #5- Ending

I will keep this short so as not to spoil anything. As I noted above, there are pieces of The Vacation House that you might predict early on. Nevertheless, Jane Shemilt’s writing is cunning, adding twists you won’t see coming. They are all twists that fit perfectly into the plot. And a few made me smack myself because I didn’t think of it. Some of these twists aren’t just jolting but heartbreaking, while others bring everything together beautifully.

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