All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Hidden Beach by Karen Swan

on May 6, 2020

The Hidden Beach
Karen Swan
Pan Macmillan AUS
2020, 406p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

In picturesque Stockholm, Bell Everhurst is working as a nanny for the perfect family: Hanna and Max, nine year old Linus and four year old twins Elise and Tilde. 

One morning as she’s rushing for the school run, Bell answers the phone – and everything changes. A woman from a clinic asks her to pass on the urgent message that Hanna’s husband is awake. Bell is confused. Max left the house just a few minute earlier.

But soon the truth comes tumbling out: Hanna’s first husband fell into a coma seven years earlier, following an accident. Now he’s awake. And he wants his family back.

As the city empties and everyone relocates for the summer to the beautiful tiny islands of the archipelago, they are all in crisis. Old wounds and new loves cannot exist side by side. Someone has to lose.

Caught in the middle, Bell tries to hold them all together but she unwittingly becomes part of the problem. Under the midsummer sun, everything hangs in the balance – until a secret slowly emerges that will decide all their fates. 

What a great hook for a story this was! Bell is from England but a Swedish grandmother means she’s fluent in both languages so when she landed a job for a wealthy Swedish family, it suited her perfectly. She is able to converse with the children in both Swedish and the English they are required to learn and for Bell, it’s an ideal job after her life fell apart. She has responsibilities, but they’re the sort that are handed over at the end of the day. Everything changes when an innocent phone call reveals Hanna’s past and the fact that Hanna and Max are not the couple she thought they were. Linus has to learn and deal with the fact that the man who has raised him for all the life he can remember, is not his biological father. And his biological father now wants him back in his life, but for Linus, the man is a stranger. When Linus’ father demands the boy come spend some time with him or he’ll take Hanna to court, Hanna negotiates that Bell must accompany him as a buffer, protecting Linus’ interests from a man who demands more than a child can offer. And for Bell, that brings a whole bunch of added complications.

I really enjoyed this. The plot was gripping – the idea of someone being in a coma for seven years, not expected to wake up….how long is someone supposed to put their life on hold? Why shouldn’t Hanna move on, make a life for herself and her child? When her husband does wake up, it’s a shock to everyone. He has lost seven years of his life – his son should be a chubby toddler, instead he’s almost ten years old. He’s missed so many milestones, like him starting school, learning to ride a bike, etc. For him, it feels like just yesterday since he saw Linus but Linus has no real memory of him, this man is just a stranger. I think he feels that a lot of things are so far out of his control. His wife has moved on to another man and now has twin daughters with him. His son is almost in double digits, age wise. He acts in callously cruel ways at times, forcing Hanna to make Linus come and spend time with him, not listening to Hanna on how it should be managed and he uses threats of court and his family’s wealth in order to force her hand. However despite the ways in which he acts at times, including the methods he uses to try and win Linus over, I still could actually feel for him. I tried to imagine what it would be like to miss basically, my child’s actual entire childhood. His attempts to connect with Linus can be clumsy and he still feels the effects of his injuries from the accident – which is where Bell comes in. Her job is to protect Linus, including from his father if necessary and she isn’t afraid to stand up to him either, which I feel Linus’ father is intrigued by. Because he’s wealthy, people tend to do whatever he wants and he’s also been in a coma for seven years, so that has probably also gotten him a pass. Bell gives him nothing of the sort.

I had no idea so many people in Sweden headed to the many islands in the Baltic Sea for summer, to cabins and summer homes which seemed like a lot of fun. It makes for an interesting setting because although there are a lot of people on the islands, it’s also quite isolated, because there are so many of them, some bigger than others. Despite the fact that it’s summer break, Bell is busier than ever, especially when she has to accompany Linus. It’s exhausting work for her, for a lot of reasons. I thought Bell’s backstory was really interesting and I wouldn’t have minded hearing a little bit more about it. You get the basics, enough to piece it together yourself but it would’ve been nice to have a flashback or two devoted to her, like there were some flashbacks devoted to Hanna littered throughout the story. I found Hanna a particularly tricky character – she’s in almost an impossible position and I went back and forth on my feelings for her. She seems somewhat scattered, flighty at first, with the news of her husband’s shocking wake and there are times when it seems like she’s making terrible decisions. It’s not until the end though that you realise just how desperate Hanna was and what she was prepared to do in order to protect her family. Her conflicted feelings felt very realistic, as did her panic and strange actions. I felt for Bell, because people put her in the most impossible of situations. She had such a love for the children she was taking care of, especially Linus and her determination to protect him and keep him as emotionally stable as possible was really apparent.

I liked the ending….I wasn’t sure how it could be pulled off, given the events of the novel, but it worked for me. I think Bell definitely has the personality for it and I feel as though she’ll make a very positive impact.


Book #84 of 2020


One response to “Review: The Hidden Beach by Karen Swan

  1. […] the apps my local library uses for eBook lending and came across a Karen Swan book. Recently I read The Hidden Beach and loved it. And prior to that I read The Paris Secret and really loved that too. And the cover […]

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