The House Beneath the Cliffs by Sharon Gosling: Full of drama, beauty, rigours and romance - book review -
After the death of her father and the break-up of a long-term relationship, chef Anna Campbell has decided to make a fresh start in a small Scottish fishing village.
But leaving London behind and setting up home in a wild and windswept cottage – in a place where not all the locals are warm and welcoming – could well blow Anna’s plans off course.
If you are desperate to flee the crowds this summer, escape to wonderful Crovie, a historic village on the Moray Firth in Aberdeenshire where the houses, sandwiched between water and cliffs, appear to almost magically emerge from the North Sea.
Sharon Gosling, who lives in a remote village in Cumbria, was captivated by Crovie on a visit in 2017 and having always been drawn to the idea of living somewhere others would consider impractical, she took away the inspiration for her first adult novel.
And The House Beneath the Cliffs, which renders this enchanting spot as an entertaining version of the real place, comes packed with all the drama, beauty, rigours and romance that you would expect from a location renowned for its remote idiosyncrasies and natural splendours.
Still grieving from the recent death of her widower father, and determined to turn her back on the twenty or more years she has spent with famous TV chef Geoff Rowcliffe, Anna Campbell is moving from London to Crovie and The Fishergirl’s Luck, a tiny cottage she bought on a whim.
Crovie is where her parents spent their honeymoon and Anna hopes that its remote charms – and the residents who live in cottages which cling ‘like colourful limpets’ to the cliff’s blunt edge – will offer her the new chapter that she so desperately needs.
But when she arrives, Anna realises her new and exceedingly small home is really no more than a shed which she had bought unseen, and that the village itself is more remote than romantic. Built on the very edge of the sea, Crovie is in constant danger of storms and landslides, and an inauspicious first meeting with grumpy local resident Douglas McKean is a reminder that she is very much an outsider.
Yet as she begins to learn about the Scottish coast and its people, something she thought she had lost over the years spent with her control freak boyfriend reawakens in her. She rediscovers her love of cooking, and turns her kitchen into a pop-up lunch club. But some of the locals are still not delighted about her arrival, and some are keen to see her plans fail.
Will Anna be able to put down roots in Crovie or will her fragile new beginning start to crumble with the cliffs?
Gosling’s story proves to be a spellbinding journey into one woman’s battle to get her life and career back on track after decades of coercion by her manipulative celebrity boyfriend, and the best efforts of those in Crovie who don’t keep a welcome in the hillside for ‘incomers.’
Fortunately, there is an eclectic cast of endearingly eccentric characters to lighten Anna’s load as she sets about transforming the wonderfully named Fishergirl’s Luck which had initially appeared to be little more than a dilapidated shed.
From the luxury of a Kensington penthouse to a home whose primary task is to survive against the elements, Anna’s bid to start over is played out against a stunning backdrop of delicious food, rocky beaches, foam-flecked seas, and a sense of warm community and friendship which wraps itself around her story.
With a romance that gently simmers, a plot that flows as fast as the North Sea tides, and some gentle reminders of the need to protect our oceans, The House Beneath the Cliffs provides the perfect holiday getaway.
(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £8.99)