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Shorecliff: A Novel by Ursula DeYoung

Shorecliff: A Novel (2013)

by Ursula DeYoung

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I kept waiting for the story to get going, but it really was just a series of different episodes. Most of the characters were fairly under-developed, and difficult to keep separate in my mind. I did envy Richard and his big extended family and their seaside mansion. ( )
  michdubb | Oct 8, 2016 |
Family drama, but with a small d, which I think is appropriate given how young the narrator was when events unfolded. Richard was 13 in 1928 when his extended family (all 20 of them) decide to spend the summer together at Shorecliff, the family’s ancestral home in Maine. One thing that struck me is that De Young made her narrator a boy and not a girl. Writers whose main characters are of opposite gender always interest me and I searched for ways that only a boy could serve the story and didn’t really find any until maybe the end. Maybe. So I have to assume it was just a preference on the part of the author.

That Richard is so very young in mental and especially emotional development helped keep me engaged. Partly it was the time, too; the aunts decry the degradation of youth into sin, but honestly all the cousins were pretty innocent. Especially the youngest ones and Richard most of all. The way he looked up words he heard the adults use when he eavesdropped was so endearing. Then a lot of those very clinical (and Victorian) definitions weren’t very enlightening and he remained baffled. He is telling his story as an adult, remembering what it was like to be that boy during that summer and De Young pulls it off well. Not only the illusion of youth, but of the time and place as well. Rural Maine coast between wars. I didn’t notice any anachronisms.

If you’re looking for a lot of action or really big, messy secrets, you won’t find them here. That said, I stayed interested in the story even with very little happening. It was the characters and the life at Shorecliff. I have a large extended family myself, but we’re not close and so the romantic notion of a summer house where we all gather is appealing. And it is romantic; daily games of croquet, cards or Piggy Needs a Signal (oh like In-free when I was a kid!), the trips to the nearby beach and the youthful exuberance that only a beach can bring out, the hen-like pecking and clucking of the aunts, the remote masculinity of the uncles. It’s beautifully rendered.

Of course not all is perfect and there are clashes that disrupt and reveal true characters. Richard’s father is a catalyst for the first big crisis; one of the aunts has returned to New York where she has been caught in a scandal with her latest lover. Innuendo and rumor are worse than reality and it hits the kids very hard as well as her sisters. The shine has come off the perfection of the summer and everyone struggles to recapture the happiness and carefree days. Mostly they succeed, but individual relationships blow up and small betrayals pepper their tranquility. The ending is a bit out of tune with the rest, but it goes a long way to explain Richard’s overarching guilt that coats his story. ( )
  Bookmarque | Jul 26, 2014 |
I received this book from a Goodreads giveaway. It is a coming of age story as thirteen year old Richard observes and eavesdrops on his cousins, aunts and uncles. I enjoyed Richard's perception of the summer in Maine, but I did not like the ending. ( )
  rtevels | Sep 23, 2013 |
Loved the opening line of this book,"The summer when I was thirteen years old changed everything for me." This was the summer that he and his mother traveled to the family home "Shorecliff" to spend the summer with his aunts, various uncles and eleven assorted cousins. It was the first time they had all spent this much time together, in the summer house. It was a summer where secrets were revealed, memories good and bad were made, and a summer that started with happiness but would end in tragedy.

My family also had a summer house where we would spend the summers with my aunts and various cousins, so much like this one. We all grew up together over those summers and though we do not always see each other as often as we would like, when we do we always fall into reminiscing about those wonderful times. Luckily for us, our summer did not end up like Richards. This was a good coming of age book, a book of families and the many divergent personalities within, clearly and poignantly written. A book about lives lived, and innocence lost. It was a bit confusing in the beginning to keep track of all the family members, but as I read it did get much easier. They all had such distinct personalities and traits, which the author did a wonderful job in describing. I liked at the end that she took the time to explain further where all the family members were after this fateful summer. Good, quiet and entertains read, which reminded me so of my childhood. ( )
  Beamis12 | Sep 21, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 031621339X, Hardcover)

A winning debut novel about a 1920s New England family and the secrets revealed when they reunite over one long summer.

Spending the summer of 1928 in a big house on the Maine coast with his 10 older cousins and a gaggle of aunts and uncles seems like a dream come true to lonely 13-year-old Richard.

But as he wanders through the bustling house, Richard witnesses scenes and conversations not meant for him and watches as the family he adores disintegrates into a tangle of lust, jealousy, and betrayal. At first only an avid spectator, Richard soon finds himself drawn into the confusion, battling with his first experience of infatuation and forced to cover for his relatives' romantic intrigues.

With jump-off-the-page characters and a captivating sense of place, SHORECLIFF examines the bonds of loyalty and rivalry that can both knit a family together and drive it apart.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:48 -0400)

A young teenager, Richard, finds himself drawn into an adult world of lust, jealousy, betrayal, and confusion while spending the summer with his extended family in a large summer house in 1928 coastal Maine.

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