Sunday, May 27, 2018

White Sand, Blue Sea by Anita Hughes

I've read plenty of novels set in exotic locations, characters who live the lush life and think nothing of it.  Anita Hughes novels are all about that, and I've read three of her novels. I find myself rolling my eyes and being annoyed at the characters, the writing, and pretty much the whole story. Every. Single. Time. 

I picked White Sand, Blue Sea because I thought I'd give her another chance, and it looked like a fun read. I have a book group meeting in June that has the theme of "reading something that we consider a guilty pleasure".  A fun, frolicky, summer novel was perfect, and I knew Anita Hughes would write about a lifestyle that is completely foreign to me.  Fun stuff. 

Ugh. This took me way longer than it should have, and mostly because I was annoyed a lot of the time.  A quick recap:  Olivia Miller is almost 25; she's beautiful, in love, and her boyfriend will be proposing to her on her birthday.  She's in St. Bart's, staying with her mother and step-father in the family villa. They spend time there every summer and at Christmas. One day, there's a knock on the door.  It's Olivia's father, Sebastian, whom Olivia hasn't seen in 20 years.  A semi-famous artist, he's spent his whole adult life traveling the world, painting. Now he's come to help celebrate Olivia's 25th birthday.  Surprise!

Sebastian stirs up trouble, of course, when he questions Olivia's relatively boring, staid life. She only goes to the best restaurants in NYC and spends the weekends in the Hamptons. Poor Olivia. Her engagement to Finn may be in trouble if she follows her father's advice to travel and see the world before marriage.  Hadley, Olivia's mother, is furious at Sebastian for potentially ruining what was supposed to be a wonderful time at St. Bart's.  Present day and the past mingle at Hadley remembers key times in her marriage to Sebastian, as they traveled the world, living in guest houses, hotel suites, and wherever else hosts would put them up while Sebastian painted.  The marriage ended when Sebastian refused to return to the U.S. to settle down in New York City so Olivia could go to school. 

Here's what annoyed me about this novel. EVERYTHING.  Sebastian couldn't have a conversation without saying "this reminds me of the time I climbed a tree to save myself from a tiger", or "I spent three months in Tibet in a monastic retreat not speaking to anyone", or...well, you get my drift. I kept waiting for someone other than me to shriek "Shut up about your stupid travels!" 

And Olivia! She was so damn annoying. She's either slightly peeved she hasn't seen her father for 20 years, or defending him.  Here's a passage from the novel that I found stupefying: 

" I know I should be angry that he missed my whole childhood, but artists are wired differently," Olivia continued. "Can you imagine Cezanne getting a job in a factory, or Matisse working in La Bon Marche? They have to roam the world of where would they get the inspiration to paint?"

What?!  The whole novel was like this! My take on Olivia: very immature. Her excitement over her birthday seemed very childish to me, and not the way an adult would act at all. She came across as very shallow and dumb. 

So. I know I'm not usually so harsh on books I review, but this one was just too much.  This is escapism on a high level, if you can overlook the shallow characters. The only thing I got out of this was a desire to see St. Bart's sometime. Sounds like a beautiful place. 

Rating:  2/6 for poorly developed characters who didn't appreciate what they had, made excuses for bad behavior, and were just, ugh. If you want to read a pure fantasy summer read, this is it. But if you're like me, your eyes will roll. 

Available in paperback and ebook. 

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