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Jane Green tends to write write fluffy beach reads, the sort of books that get turned into equally fluffy TV movies.

And in "The Beach House," she links together a series of storylines that could have easily made up their own books, with a warm'n'fuzzy sentimental core in an ancient Nantucket house. Unfortunately it begins to come unravelled about halfway through, and some of those storylines simply rush to the finish line without bothering to spin up a satisfactory conclusion.

Eccentric widow Nan Powell is faced with selling her beloved old house Windermere, with its memories of her beloved albeit gambling-addicted hubby. The alternative: take in boarders for money, and fend off the developers who want to tear down Windermere for McMansions.

At about this time, her son Michael returns home after an ill-fated affair with his boss's clingy wife, who now wants a commitment from him. And among the boarders are Daff, a newly-divorced wife and mother who is seeking "herself," and Daniel, a nervy young man who has just realized that he is gay, and is struggling to deal with this. His young wife Bee, who is understandably upset by her husband's distance, is still ignorant of this.

As time winds on -- and the developers circle around Nan's run-down mansion -- the various people begin to relax and open up to each other, like members of a family. But then a series of crises hit -- Bee's father is badly injured, Daff's daughter is arrested, and Michael's desperate former lover shows up with some shocking news for him (yes, you can probably guess what). And even Nan is faced with an old face from her past, who she thought was gone forever....

"The Beach House" has more than enough plot -- any of its subplots would make a decent novel, and Green winds together a series of them with some tenuous links. Jewelry stores, yuppie marriage counseling, and an empty house post-divorce are all explored in detail, as the characters' lives start spinning out of control. And she tackles some of the nastier aspects of adultery and moving on, such as disaster dates and a tantrum-throwing teenager.

But when all the characters get to Nantucket, Green seems to lose some of her inspiration. She rushes through the last quarter of the book after a leisurely build-up. And she seems vaguely embarrassed by the prospect of a big emotional scene -- big shattering events are dealt with via a phone call, a horrifying betrayal is handled by a few sniping comments and general shunning. One character even conveniently expires to avoid dealing with the general baggage.

This is particularly troublesome in Daniel's story -- his coming-out and tentative explorations into the gay subculture is both wrenching and intriguing, as you wonder what this loving father will do to avoid hurting his wife and kids. But once he's out'n'proud, then Green shies away from actually dealing with it, or with his attraction to the conveniently hunky Matt. The drippy "let's not have sex because I want a commitment" scene is simply absurd.

As for the characters, they're a mixed bag. Nan is the biggest problem -- she's not really eccentric, and she's not really nurturing. Yet Green has her randomly flip-flop between being an eccentric old free spirit, and being an earth mother-type. Not that it's very plausible that her tomato garden could instantly turn a spoiled, shrieking, shoplifting regressed teenager into a little angel overnight.

On the other hand, Daniel and Bee are explored with painful, beautiful detail, as he struggles to deal with his homosexuality and she struggles with the revelations about what their marriage was, and where this leaves her as a desirable woman. Too bad Michael is an insensitive and self-absorbed jerk who strings along a married woman until she ditches her hubby, and Daff loses her tragic wronged-woman dimensions as soon as she shrugs off Michael's adulterous liaison. Who cares if that's the sort of thing that broke up her marriage? He's hot and has tight abs!

"The Beach House" has potential and plot to burn, but the rushed final lap and a couple puttered-out storylines leave you frustrated. Here's hoping the next try is longer and more passionate.
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on October 11, 2008
For the very first time, I feel compelled to review an Amazon book because of my extreme disappointment. The excerpt made it sound like a fun, interesting read so my book group bought a bunch of hard cover copies. By the end, each of us believed we could have written it. The plot lines, dialogue, and messages were predictable cliches. There were no surprises, and we never really cared about any of the characters whose stories were tied up quickly with neat little bows. Obviously there's a market for this type of book since some people appear to have enjoyed it. From our book club to you, save your money.
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on July 22, 2008
Books like this are the reason for half-stars! I would give this 2.5 if possible. It wasn't AWFUL or I would not have finished it. But it was an audio and it was the only one I had for a long car ride.

The thing that attracted me to this book was that it was set on Nantucket. I love that place. But I wasn't far into the audio when I realized that was the best part of the book!

I have never commented on the production of an audio book - I guess because most are well done. But this one...the narrator barely took a breath between changes of locale, time, or scene. This was quite annoying,

Character development was uneven at best with some characters hardly fleshed out. There were way too many coincidences and the action was very predictable. And the writing itself was awkward.

The thing that really annoyed me were the factual errors that could have been so easily remedied by a good editor. The author had hydrangeas blooming on Nantucket before they bloom in Baltimore! And Nan was fixing her overgrown, heavily laden tomato plants at the same time in June that school had just let out for the summer! No one north of the Mason-Dixon line has tomatoes that early. There were quite a few other mistakes like this which makes me wonder if any editor was involved at all.
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on July 24, 2008
Jane Green's "The Beach House" centered around the life of Nan, who lived in an old house by the beach in Nantucket. Nan was considered to be eccentric by those living in the area but one would always remember having met her. Nan's one of the few people with vivid personality. The house that she inherited from her deceased husband was falling apart, and Nan had no financial means to restore it. In order to help herself financially, Nan decided that she would convert the house into a Bed and Breakfast. Little did she know that her life would be completely changed when she get to know her boarders and their stories.

This was definitely a great beach read. The characters are interesting, and the plot was fun. Jane Green was able to provide some depths for her characters, and this was helpful in terms of engaging her readers. This light and fun read is perfect for the summer!
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on June 23, 2008
Grab your beach chair and prepare to be entertained! Reading Jane Green's latest novel brought back wonderful memories of a Nantucket summer vacation spent in our own beach cottage. While reading this story I was easily absoarbed into the world of Ms. Green's characters and the wisdom of a wonderful woman I wish I would be lucky enough to rent a room from. I recommend you tell the kids to order pizza and spend a few hours with your nose stuck in this book.
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VINE VOICEon June 29, 2008
I don't read Chick Lit or romance novels and I usually read non fiction. So this was a total departure for me... but I read a review for this recently and thought I wanted a light read and the Kindle price was right on.

I have a Kindle (OMG if you don't have one RUN to the home page and order it!!!).. This edition came out a few days after the publication..

I loved the story and I couldnt wait to get back to it.. I was up way too late finishing it in one day.. its not a tough read but you fall in love with these people.. its a great beach read but its not "dumbed" down as so many books in this type of genre are so I am off to find more Jane Green, this is the first one of hers I have read and I really really enjoyed it! And again thanks for the Kindle Edition. I wouldnt have considered buying this before.. Kindle changed that, and introduced me to new authors such as this one.
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on September 30, 2008
As another reviewer said Green's books have been going steadily downhill since 'Babyville' but the fall in quality between this and her last book (which I didn't actually like) is a major one. TBH I wonder if she even wrote it. It is flat and lifeless and the characters are really all the same person - Nan is supposed to be this wonderfully eccentric older lady - but in reality she isn't any different from any of the other characters. Jessica is a spoiled selfish brat but she really isn't any worse than any of the adult characters.Relationships break up so that the participants can find their 'true soulmates' (yawn) who it many cases seem to be indistinguishable from their original soulmate or for that matter any other male/female character in the novel. Jordana is supposedly to be incredibly tarty, shallow and materialistic but frankly I couldn't see any difference between her and the other female characters except they went for a more low key but also expensive look. The conversations in particular are unbelievable - whether characters are male/female/old/young/gay/straight they all have exactly the same voice. In particular she seems to have lost the insight she used to have into male characters - the lowlight for me came when Michael is trying to persuade his married lover to get rid of their baby - he tells her about a friend of his who decided to become a single mother but regretted it - the whole thing sounds like a conversation between two girlfriends, like nothing at all a man would ever say.

The only twist I hadn't forseen was when someone from the past turns up again in Nan's life (I didn't think even in this poor form JG would be so obvious) and the story turns mildly interesting - but needless to say this character is killed off before he can pose any threat to the happy ending we find ourselves rushing towards at breakneck speed. (There is no imagination at all in these pairings - what's the betting that Daniel will fall for what is apparently the only other unattached gay male in Nantucket or that Michael won't have to look too far from his mother's house to find the low-maintenance soulmate he craves?) There are absolutely no consequences at all for bad behaviour - Daf's ex (having been ditched by the woman he left her for) quickly finds another woman who seems perfect for him, Michael behaves outrageously by sleeping with his boss's wife - and not only gets off with it but is rewarded by finding true love and a better lifestyle, Jessica steals from shops and her mother responds by buying her more stuff (!). Is this really the same woman who wrote 'Spellbound'?

I wonder how much longer Green will get off with peddling these stories of rich self-satisfied people who have no real problems whatsoever - I found it impossible to sympathise with the so-called problems of Nan who has at least the option of selling off her house and land for millions - when these days many people have not only debt but negative equity and can't sell their property at all!
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on June 26, 2008
This was my first Jane Green book. Her writing style is perfection. She described her characters so wonderfully that I am sad the story is over. As sappy as it may sound, I felt like a part of that Nantucket home.

Prior to starting this book, I read a book where the writer over-analyzed, over-explained, and just plain over-did it. This book was a breath of fresh air... even with all it's drama.

I'm searching for another Jane Green book now. :)
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on August 11, 2008
I once read a suggestion that the time that you commit to a book to see if it is worth finishing should be 100 pages minus your age (the thought being that as we get older why invest our precious time on something not worthwhile.) I gave Beach House much more then that, and still could not finish. I found that I just did not care about these people, their exploits and their untidy lives. Did it work out for Daniel, Daff, Michael, etc. Do I care? Absolutely not another page(s) worth.
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on January 11, 2009
I've read all of Jane Green's previous novels and have found them consistently entertaining and humorous. She excels at character development to the point where you feel like the protagonist becomes your friend. Unfortunately, her last two books have been far less engaging. I think she must be running out of sincere story lines. The Beach House was so disingenuous that I couldn't force myself to continue reading it and returned it to the library. I'm just glad I didn't pay to read it. How many times can you use the word chignon to describe a hairdo? It's slightly ridiculous. Her characters have no depth - they are all just walking stereotypes.
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