My edition: Paperback, published on 30 July 2015 by Pan Macmillan, 418 pages.
Description: For one long hot summer in Devon, three families are sharing one very big house in the country. The Herreras: made up of two tired parents, three grumbling children and one promiscuous dog; the Littles: he's loaded (despite two divorces and five kids), she's gorgeous, but maybe the equation for a truly happy marriage is a bit more complicated than that; and the Browns, who seem oddly jumpy around people, but especially each other.
By the pool, new friendships blossom; at the Aga door, resentments begin to simmer. Secret crushes are formed and secret cigarettes cadged by the teens, as the adults loosen their inhibitions with litres of white wine and start to get perhaps a little too honest ...
Mother hen to all, Evie Herreras has a life-changing announcement to make, one that could rock the foundations of her family. But will someone else beat her to it?
I had the pleasure to review Claire Sandy's wonderful debut novel What Would Mary Berry Do?, and almost exactly a year later her new book hits the shelves! Though rather than focusing on one woman, her family, and a whole load of scrumptious baked goods, this time around the novel takes a very different direction as it focuses on the tension and intrigue that bubble to the surface when three wildly different families share a house during a summer in the countryside.
Evie and Mike Herreras were in my eyes the most normal ones of the bunch. With their three children and dog in tow, they represented a loud and chaotic but also very normal family among a holiday of mystery, suspense and a whole lot of drama. Shen Little was Evie's best friend and at first glance she seemed to be the much younger trophy wife of her husband Clive, however over the course of the novel the reader discovers that their relationship is far more complicated than first meets the eye.
Finally there were the Browns; Paula, John, and their two children. A last-minute addition to the group of vacation-goers, after a cancellation from another family, Evie and Shen don't really know Paula beyond the school gates, and as peculiarities add up they realise that perhaps they should've done a better background check... Will the three families be able to spend a blissful summer holiday together, or will their differences and the mounting tension become too much to handle for some?
There was much happening in A Very Big House in the Country that I barely know where to start! Chuck-full with a diverse cast of characters, deep-rooted secrets and plentiful twists and turns, I guarantee that as a reader you really have no idea what's going on and who to trust until everything comes perfectly together towards the end of the novel. It was crafted exceptionally well by Claire Sandy and I take my hat off to her for making me second-guess everyone's motives throughout.
However, having so many characters and seemingly unconnected storylines playing out at once I did find that there was a little too much going on at times, and reading the novel in bite-sized chunks on my commute created a somewhat chaotic reading experience where more than once I mixed up the families' children until I confused myself completely and had to backtrack a few pages. Therefore I would recommend that you read this novel in as few sittings as possible, to be able to fully appreciate the complicated character dynamics and the slowly rising suspense as secrets begin to unravel.
A Very Big House in Country is a very unexpected novel, which will undoubtedly take you by surprise. A lot of what happens to the families my seem bewildering or trivial at first, but actually there's a very good reason for why any of them act the way they do. It's a very exciting and rewarding experience when as a reader you're able to connect the dots and reveal a very satisfying conclusion.
You can purchase the novel from Waterstones, Amazon.co.uk or your own preferred retailer.
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Today is the last day on the blog tour, but do check out the previous reviews and guests posts published on the following blogs: