Review | The Lemon Grove – Helen Walsh


Paperback (Tinder Press, 320 pages)

First published 2014; this edition published 2014

Rating on Goodreads: 3 stars

“Set on the rugged, mountainous west coast of Mallorca, this taut, sultry, brilliantly paced novel is a meditation on female desire, the vicissitudes of marriage, the allure of youth, and the politics of raising other peoples’ children. 
     The story takes place over one week in the heat of Deia, a coastal village on an island off the southeast coast of Spain. Jenn and Greg go for a break to enjoy languorous, hot afternoons by the pool. But the equilibrium is upset by the arrival of Greg’s daughter (Jenn’s step-daughter), Emma, and her boyfriend, Nathan. Jenn is in her early 40s, loves her husband and her daughter and she is content, to an extent. But when this beautiful, reckless young man comes into her life, she is driven by a sexual compulsion that she’s seldom felt since adolescence. The holiday progresses and her world is thrown into tumult as the lines blur between desire and obsession–it is not just the idea of sexual fulfillment that Jenn finds attractive but the suggestion of youth: by Nathan’s side, Jenn is young and carefree once again, and at this stage in her life, the promise of youth is every bit as seductive as the promise of passion. What follows is a highly charged narrative liaison that puts lives in jeopardy and percolates with just enough sexual tension to make it impossible to put down.”

I think I’m the wrong target audience for this book.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a good novel. It’s pacy, it’s readable, it isn’t dull by a long shot. But I wonder if all the hype gave me certain expectations – ones that, sadly, weren’t met, in my mind. Hype declared it to be sexy and sultry – but I didn’t find that at all. I just found Jenn’s predicament very, very sad. She is a character I pitied – and her wish to regain her youth is palpable throughout the novel. Each character is full of depth, full of true emotion – but ye gods I wanted to slap Emma around the face. I hope I wasn’t as petulant as her when I was fifteen. Nathan I disliked from the first appearance, and Greg just made me groan. I’ve never liked pompous characters.

More than anything, I saw this as a poignant tale about lost youth and the callousness of the young. There was nothing erotic about The Lemon Grove for me, not in the slightest. I almost winced at a few scenes that were perhaps meant to be arousing. I’d recommend this to an older age group, but for people my age – young adult – I wouldn’t. It’s a good tale, but I know I wasn’t the right age to read it.



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