The Summer That Changed Us by Cathy Bramley: An inspirational read – book review –
Living your best life is all the buzz in a world that seems plagued by disease and war
It’s a theme that feel-good author Cathy Bramley harnesses with her trademark warmth, wit and wisdom in this gorgeous comfort read set amidst the wild and rugged beauty of the Northumberland coast.
Full of hope, love, rich insight and an uplifting and much-needed sense of renewal, The Summer That Changed Us features three very different women drawn together by their troubles, and discovering strength and determination through friendship and female solidarity.
The small, sparkling village of Merle Bay on the windswept North East coast – known for its beautiful beach scattered with sea-glass – is a place of kindness and community where anyone can have a fresh start.
For 28-year-old Katie Small from Nottingham, it has been her perfect hideout for ten years now after a childhood trauma left her feeling exposed.
Katie inherited both her small cottage home and the village’s lingerie shop from her beloved aunt and Merle Bay is ‘her heaven, her haven,’ and she is happier here than anywhere else in the world.
But a letter has arrived for Katie which has reignited the trauma that has haunted her since she was a teenager and she flees to her bolt-hole at nearby Sea Glass Beach.
Meanwhile, illustrator Robyn McGill, married to Finn, joint owner of a local family-run fishing business, has always found comfort and joy in her home next to the Merle Bay harbour where the winter winds are brutal but the summer provides ‘a lullaby of waves.’
For Robyn, fresh sea air is helping to heal the mental and physical scars from her radical cancer treatment but maybe not her marriage. Patient, honest and hard-working Finn doesn’t yet understand that treating Robyn with infinite kindness is not entirely what she needs now.
And then there’s 46-year-old architect Grace Byron – a new start could help her move on from the heartbreaking loss of her husband Myles who died just as he was about to retire.
His death has left her lonely and vulnerable, and she needs to be somewhere new where there isn’t ‘a memory imprinted into every inch of the place.’ So she’s renting Sea Glass House and hoping to press pause on a life that no longer feels like her own.
When the three women get together after a hilarious ‘split chance’ meeting on Sea Glass Beach, they form an instant bond and are soon sharing Prosecco, laughter and their biggest secrets.
Together, they feel stronger than ever before but can their friendship help them face old fears and find happy endings… as well as new beginnings?
There could be no more atmospheric backdrop for this gentle, heartwarming celebration of the power of friendship to heal mental and physical wounds, and give a new impetus to lives gone awry.
Merle Bay – a place of windswept charm, endless skies and a shimmering sea of blue and green – takes on a character of its own as Katie, Robyn and Grace share laughter, tears, and life’s ups and downs.
Family, friendship and fresh starts are all given leading roles as, in time honoured way, secrets are divulged, fears are faced and problems are solved.
Tender, funny, and threaded through with some gritty and painfully authentic real-life issues, this is the perfect, inspirational read to welcome the springtime season of hope and renewal.
(Orion, paperback, £8.99)