Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Bench by Cromer Beach, by R.J. Gould

Richard Gould, August 2020

This is a charming novel about an English seaside town.

There's not really a plot here; it's about the people of Cromer getting on with their lives, with all their friendships, relationships, their businesses and professions; their children and their parents.

Sharon Kipling and Andy Powell have been a couple since they were students; they're planning to get married. She's a teacher, and deputy head, at the local primary school. He's a real estate agent. They each meet many of their fellow Cromer residents through their work.

But Sharon's father, Jamie, owns the Cromer Curiosity Shop--he says antiques, but other people say junk. Jamie has never been reluctant to talk up the value of what he's selling, dishonestly or not. He's also not reluctant to talk down, dishonestly or not, the value of what he's buying. Sharon's conflicts with her father go back to Jamie's infidelity when her mother was dying. The conflict explodes when Jamie scams Andy on the value of Andy's newly deceased father's extremely valuable collection of art and artifacts from India.
Andy, hurt deeply by the sudden, tragic loss of both of his loving, devoted, parents when he was a child, is shocked that Sharon isn't just grateful to have a living parent, even a dishonest, unfaithful, unreliable one. It leads to arguments, conflict, and doubt about getting married.

Jamie, shocked at how very angry his daughter is, and her declaration that she never wants to hear from him again, is meanwhile wondering if he's made a mistake--if this is costing him what he cares about most.

Meanwhile, Rosemary and Clive, the retired couple that had befriended Andy's father, Samuel, happy to do his errands and visit with him, are in growing conflict over, of all things, diet. Rosemary is determined to get both of them on a healthy diet. With "healthy" mostly excluding meat of any kind, or sugar, or, well, a lot of things Clive enjoys. Neither one of them is really prepared to be at all flexible. After forty years of marriage, they're at loggerheads.

Clive, walking the beach regularly, and Sharon, teaching and supervising schoolchildren, become aware of a couple who seemingly have everything, and are in fact coming apart, with the strains affecting their son badly.

These and other residents of Cromer are living their ordinary lives, experiencing ordinary stresses and strains, and forming new friendships and relationships as they do. It's engrossing, warm, and satisfying.


I received a free electronic galley from the publisher, and am reviewing it voluntarily.


  1. Lis, many thanks for taking part in my blog tour with this review - it is much appreciated.