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Monday, 1 April 2013

The Paradise Guesthouse by Ellen Sussman

The Paradise Guest House 

It starts as a trip to paradise. Sent on assignment to Bali, Jamie, an adventure guide, imagines spending weeks exploring the island's lush jungles and pristine white sand beaches. Yet three days after her arrival, she is caught in Bali's infamous nightclub bombings, which irreparably change her life and leave her with many unanswered questions. One year later, haunted by memories, Jamie returns to Bali seeking a sense of closure. Most of all, she hopes to find Gabe, the man who saved her from the attacks. She hasn't been able to forget his kindness - or the spark between them as he helped her heal. Checking into a cosy guest house for her stay, Jamie meets the kindly owner, who is coping with a painful past of his own, and a young boy who improbably becomes crucial to her search. Jamie has never shied away from a challenge, but a second chance with Gabe presents her with the biggest dilemma of all: whether she's ready to open her heart. Praise for "French Lessons": "A wonderfully warm and sexy book ...we loved it!" ("Bella"). "A delightful novel, full of joie de vivre". ("Woman and Home").

Having previously read Ellen Sussman's debut novel,  French Lessons, I was looking forward to reading her next novel and I have not been disappointed. Although this book is completely different in content to her debut novel I loved it.

The Paradise Guesthouse is set in Bali a year on from the bombings which caused massive devastation to the communities there. Jamie, was in those bombings, she lost her boyfriend there, and has returned for a memorial service honouring those who died and those who survived and/or the rescuers.

One of the things I love about Sussman is her ability to set the scene perfectly - while reading this book I was able to picture Bali and it really bought the book alive. She has a fantastic writing style which balances setting the scene with the actual story perfectly.

The story starts in 2003, when Jamie returns to the island, before going back to 2002, when Jamie is in Bali with her boyfriend, and finally goes back to 2003 and the memorial service. As can be imagined with the story content, there are scenes of raw emotion and confusion - should Jamie stay in Bali or return home to her family but there are also scenes of happiness and recollection when Jamie remembers the happy times in Bali.

I really liked Jamie's travels and she met some great characters in the book - Gabe being the main interest, and her host Nyoman but I must say my heart went out to Bambang and his dog TukTuk - a street boy who stole her wallet and then her heart!

This is a fantastic and quick read - one which could easily be devoured in one sitting. I am already looking forward to Sussman's next book with excitement.

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