The Family Retreat by Bev Thomas

My enormous thanks to Sophie Portas for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for The Family Retreat by Bev Thomas and for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share that review today.

The Family Retreat is published by Faber on 25th August 2022 and is available for purchase here.

The Family Retreat

When Rob decides the family needs to get away for the summer Jess is not convinced – won’t all the things they’re escaping be waiting for them on their return? But the kids are thrilled, and before long their idyllic little cottage, the sea air, and the feel of skin sticky from sun-cream, lollies and sand, begins to work its magic. Jess allows herself to sink into the holiday vibes – the family even make holiday friends.

The summer heat intensifies Jess – ever vigilant – unearths a secret, a problem she’s sure she can help solve. But things are not always as they seem. The water may look inviting but even the gentlest looking waves can hide the deadliest undercurrents.

As autumn approaches, Jess – and the reader – will come to realise this is going to end in a way no-one could have imagined…

My Review of The Family Retreat

It took me quite a while to read The Family Retreat because it felt so intense, so raw and so accurate that I needed to step back from time to time and process the depth of emotion and tension. I thought Bev Thomas’s ability to draw in the reader and make them experience what Jess experiences was exceptional.

I can’t say much about the plot for fear of spoiling the read for others, but what Bev Thomas does so completely brilliantly is a kind of sleight of hand that has the reader believing one thing before she hits them with a different reality that is breath taking. As the narrative drew to a close I felt literally rooted to my seat as I read, unable to tear myself away form what was happening.

The Family Retreat is fabulously written, and I loved the setting descriptions particularly. It comes as no surprise that the author was a psychologist as the authenticity, the sensitivity and the authority of the psychological elements is mesmerising, making the book a brilliant read. There are some difficult themes explored through the narrative that give The Family Retreat incredible depth and maturity.

I loved the characterisation because, through the lynchpin of Jess, we get to know the people in The Family Retreat so completely. Jess felt totally real to me and so many aspects of her personality resonated with me personally, particularly that of trying to be all things to all people, so that the narrative was all the more affecting. However, the one person who astounded me most was Polly who is a universal everywoman so familiar in today’s society. Helen’s response to Polly’s experiences has a seismic impact on the reader and I wish every politician and patriarchal figure could read The Family Retreat so that they understand the lives of so many in our society. Through these characters Bev Thomas gave me far greater clarity and understanding than any factual account has managed. A retreat suggests a place of reflection and learning and my word do these characters learn about themselves and others!

I’m aware this review is somewhat vague and indistinct but it’s hard to articulate thoughts without giving away too much. I can say, however, that I thought The Family Retreat was, quite simply, excellent – in style, subject matter, plot and character. I found it compelling, affecting and educational as well as totally entertaining. Don’t miss this one.

About Bev Thomas

Bev Thomas was a clinical psychologist in the NHS for many years. She currently works as an organisational consultant in mental health and other services. She lives in London with her family. Her debut novel, A Good Enough Mother, was published in 2019.

You can find Bev on Twitter @BevThomas20.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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