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Sunrise by the Sea: A Little Beach Street Bakery Novel


Sunrise by the Sea: A Little Beach Street Bakery Novel

Jenny Colgan creates characters who seem so real and approachable that we end up feeling as if we know them. In SUNRISE BY THE SEA, we return to the tidal island of Mount Polbearne, which is accessible to the mainland of Cornwall at low tide only. While we meet Marisa Rosso, who has been devastated by the death of her grandfather, we also become acquainted with Polly and Huckle, and how their lives have been changed by having twins.

Marisa is suffering from depression or anxiety (it's never clear exactly which) and feels that she can't leave the safety of her house. When her landlord kicks her out of the room she rents in Exeter, where she has started working from home, he offers her a place in Mount Polbearne. Having no other options, she heads to this remote village and to a cottage that is isolated on a hill away from town. The location is perfect, and she learns that she can have her groceries delivered, so she doesn't need to leave her little haven.

"An unforgettable setting, quirky characters and food for thought are all guaranteed in SUNRISE BY THE SEA."

The only rub is Marisa’s next-door neighbor, Alexei, a huge Russian who gives piano lessons. Since the wall between the two cottages is paper-thin, Marisa can hear every note that is played on the piano. She manages to deal with the noise during the day, but it is at night when Alexei plays loud, discordant music with great passion. A frightened and horrified Marisa sends him a note asking him not to play at night, and he complies.

The two live side by side, not talking or communicating in any way. An approaching storm threatens to destroy the causeway that has stood for centuries connecting Mount Polbearne with the mainland. The villagers come together to try to save their road, and Marisa must decide if she is going to help or do what she has been doing --- stay alone and isolated up on her hill --- and ignore the needs of those who have been so kind and supportive to her.

From the onset, we are engrossed in Marisa's life. Her job as a registrar is quite interesting, especially as it's so different from anything we have in the US. We sympathize with her when her grandfather dies suddenly, and it's fascinating to see Italy from Marisa's eyes as she thinks about her childhood visits there and eventually Skypes with her grandmother. We learn about the rhythms of small town life in Italy, and we can all but smell the herbs, lemon and garlic and taste the rich pasta dishes and pizza that Marisa and her grandmother prepare.

Colgan poignantly and lovingly explores mental illness as we see both Marisa's struggle to return to normal life and how her therapist, working remotely, tries to help her. Marisa romanticizes the Italy she remembers from her childhood visits, but when push comes to shove, she realizes that she's British at heart. Colgan also writes beautifully and humorously about friendship and romance. We see how the villagers come together in times of need; how Polly and Huckle are kind and generous, but even hard-working families sometimes need a bit of extra support; and how romance can sneak up on people when they least expect it.

The setting is certainly part of the charm of this series, and those who want to experience something comparable to Mount Polbearne might want to explore St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall. Similar to its fictional counterpart, there is a church at the top of the hill. Colgan writes that "the old church, half ruined, had sat at the very top for hundreds and hundreds of years, set above a winding, motley collection of slightly drunkenly leaning cottages, made of the grey slate native to the area..."

Another aspect of Colgan's writing not to be dismissed is her humor. Polly and Huckle's children, precocious to say the least, lead us to some truly funny situations, as does Polly's precious rescued puffin, Neil. We also revisit Polly and Huckle's old friends, and we chuckle at Reuben's antics and the half-birthday for his eight-year-old with ships, a concert and a wayward snake.

An unforgettable setting, quirky characters and food for thought are all guaranteed in SUNRISE BY THE SEA.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on July 9, 2021

Sunrise by the Sea: A Little Beach Street Bakery Novel
by Jenny Colgan

  • Publication Date: June 22, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0062911325
  • ISBN-13: 9780062911322