The Long Weekend is about hidden pasts. Over the course of one bank holiday weekend in an idyllic seaside town in Cornwall, the secrets that have been hidden for so long rise to the surface. Boutique hotel The Townhouse by the Sea is owned and run by Claire and her boyfriend Luca, who couldn't be more different; while she is calm, professional and organised, he is a passionate, flamboyant chef. Their contrasting styles compliment each other, their hotel is successful, their future looks bright.
As the long weekend begins, guests begin to check in to The Townhouse by the Sea. Colin is on his annual trip with his illegitimate daughter and her mother, and it soon becomes apparent things can’t go on as they are; Laura doesn't know who her father is, but she believes she has tracked him to the town and is determined to confront him; Trevor and Monique have a stake in the hotel and arrive with a business proposition for Claire and Luca, but underneath their polished, bubbly appearance is a secret that is holding them back. Then there’s the stag, who arrives ahead of the rest of his party and demolishes Claire's composure with a single look. As the weekend progresses, carefully crafted fronts begin to crack under the weight of history, revelations and resurfacing feelings.
It took me a while to get into this book. There are lots of different characters introduced in isolation of each other, and I struggled to get fully absorbed. But as soon as Nick arrived and Claire began to tell her colleague Angelica about the day she met the Barnes brothers, I was hooked. The flashbacks to Claire’s time spent with the Barnes family – who I fell in love with instantly – and what happened afterwards, are brilliantly written, engaging and heartbreaking. The flashbacks also mean that, for a novel that takes place over only a couple of days, the pace isn't too quick and the tension has time to build.
The other stories slot in neatly around Claire and Nick’s struggles to deal with their feelings, and there are some fantastic characters. The story of Colin and his confused, lonely daughter Chelsea was inspiring and touching. Karen, Chelsea’s mother, is infuriating, but beneath the heels, inappropriate clothes and apparent disinterest in her daughter she is also vulnerable, and very real.
All the threads are contained in The Townhouse by the Sea, which is a luxurious, comfortable hotel. And despite the difficult, often tragic pasts that unravel throughout the weekend, the surroundings are beautiful; the décor, the food and the landscape are reminiscent of every idyllic English seaside town.
Each of the stories are resolved in a way which is satisfying, but not unrealistic. There are challenges ahead for lots of the characters. Past decisions made cannot be undone or forgotten, but feelings and situations are faced, resolutions or compromises reached.
The Long Weekend is a lovely book, and one which, as well as absorbing you in the lives of Claire, Luca, Nick, Angelica and others, will remind you of fish and chips and the cry of seagulls, and leave you wondering if there's time to book a weekend by the sea before the sunshine runs out.