New Book – Meet me on the Beach by Hilary Boyd (Chapters 1-4)

Publishing year: 2015

This new novel’s main character is Karen Stewart, who is fifty-seven and married to Harry.

We learn that Karen and Harry met when she started to work for him as his PA. Harry had been married for two years, and they eventually fell in love. Harry has a daughter from his first marriage, but Karen and Sophie have never seen eye to eye. Now Harry, who is seventy-five, is retired after he sold up the business. Things are not easy for Karen as Harry drinks too much and spends most of the day drunk. He is vile and rude, and the week before he hit her. Even though he was repentant later, that hurt Karen terribly.

Karen doesn’t know what to do. She can hardly talk to anybody about her situation at home. The only person she tells how things really are is her brother Johnnie, who lives in Toronto. Johnnie tells her to leave Harry, but Hilary can’t bring herself to do just do as she thinks that Harry is sick.

Yet, one day when she has had enough of his drinking, Karen tells him that if he doesn’t stop drinking, she will leave him. She hopes that her words will spur him to change. Yet, Harry dismisses her words, saying that she will never leave him. Upset and angry, Karen goes to bed, and from the stairs she hears Harry call her repeatedly, but she decides to ignore him. Yet, she wakes up in the middle of the night, and when she finds his bed empty, she goes to find him in the shed where he enjoys his drink and television. She finds him asleep, but on closer examination she realises that he is not asleep, but dead. So she calls the doctor and an ambulance, and the doctor confirms that Harry had a heart attack.

After Harry’s death, Karen feels empty. She is sad but at the same time relieved, and she can’t shed the sense of guilt as she remembers Harry calling her the night he died. She wonders if he called her because he was feeling sick, and maybe if she had heeded his summons, he would be alive now.

Sophie, Harry’s daughter, comes to stay, and after the funeral, the lawyer comes to the house to discuss the will. Harry has left the house to Karen as long as she is alive or unmarried and a monthly allowance, but his daughter only inherits £1,000 as the rest of the money goes to charity. Sophie is upset, blaming Karen of poisoning Harry against her, but the lawyer tells her that Karen has nothing to do with his father’s dispositions. Harry thought that Sophie hasn’t got her act together because of all the money he has given her over the years, and he thought that if she had to stand up for herself, Sophie could do great things.

Then Sophie comes up with a solution. She tells Karen that she is going to sublet her flat as she is broke and move into the house with her. Karen is wary because they don’t get on, but she doesn’t refuse. So Sophie goes back to London for a while, and then she will return to the house indefinitely.

Apart from all this, there is a character who seems to be quite important. It is the vicar, William Haskell. Unlike Harry who used to go to church regularly, Karen doesn’t believe in God, and she has a certain animosity towards William, who is new in the community and has tried to bring her to church. William seems to be a good man, who tries to help Karen, and when he comes over to talk to Karen about the headstone, Karen finally breaks down and tells her about the night Harry died and about his summons, which she ignored. William tells her that she shouldn’t feel guilty because she is not to blame. Yet, Karen is not sure because deep down she wonders that at some point she knew that Harry was calling for her in distress, and she consciously ignored him.

I don’t know what the role of the vicar will be in Karen’s life. William is married and has a child, but I am not sure if with time Karen might have feelings for him. It is obvious that the vicar will play a vital role in the novel.

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