Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

photoAt this time of year, our thoughts inevitably turn to holidays and to what we can read whilst lying on the beach.

A ‘beach read’ requires a good plot, not too much intellectual effort and enough suspense to keep us turning the pages between sipping a drink and slapping on the sun cream Bittersweet, out in the UK on June 6th, certainly ticks all the boxes.

Mabel, known as May, meets Genevra Winslow when they are room mates at college. ‘Ev’ is everything small town May is not – cool, beautiful, East Coast and moneyed.The opening paragraph sucks you into the story :

‘Before she loathed me,before she loved me,Genevra Katherine Winslow didn’t know I existed. That’s hyperbolic, of course;by February, student housing had required us to share a hot shoe box of a room for a full six months, so she must have gathered I was a physical reality (if only because I coughed every time she smoked her Kools atop the bunk bed), but nearly until the day Ev asked me to accompany her to Winloch, I was accustomed  to her regarding me as she would a hideously upholstered armchair – something in the her way, to be utilized when absolutely necessary, but certainly not what she’d have chosen herself’ 

An unlikely friendship begins between the two girls which ends with May being invited to spend the summer at the Winslow family estate in Vermont, Winloch. At first May is dazzled by the seemingly glamourous lifestyle of the Winslows but gradually a web of lies and deceit begins to unravel.

May discovers that things are not all they seem at Winloch and to realise that it is difficult to know who to trust. Are the Winslows really all they seem ? How did the family come back from the brink of bankruptcy in the 1930s ? Why is Birch, Ev’s father, so controlling and is her mother really so unfeeling?

We also begin to find out more about Mabel.She isn’t quite the reliable narrator we thought her to be at the outset. Is there a reason the Winslows have drawn her into their web ?

Of course this is a thriller and , to a certain extent ,disbelief must be suspended for it to work.Arguably at 400 plus pages it is a touch over long but it kept me gripped throughout. In the States the book is on the New York Times bestsellers list so it is definitely one for the summer suitcase.

Many thanks to Harper Collins for the review copy.

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