Book Review: Silver Bay

Silver BaySilver Bay is an older work by bestselling author Jojo Moyes, originally published in 2007 and re-released in the US in fall of 2014. And while Silver Bay is perhaps not quite as tear-inducing as Me Before You, it certainly fits in with the author’s talent for portraying unusual relationships full of tragedy and redemption.

Silver Bay is a sleepy little coastal town in Australia, known for its harbor full of marine life, its ramshackle old hotels, and its whale-watching expeditions. Liza and her daughter Hannah live in Liza’s aunt Kathleen’s inn, which has been in her family for over 70 years. Liza keeps to herself, takes tourists out on her boat, and socializes each evening on the front porch of the inn with the other “whale chasers”.

But then Englishman Mike Dormer shows up on a secret mission, exploring Silver Bay as a possible development site for a luxury resort. Mike’s job is to secure the location and smooth out any local resistance to the plan so that his wheeler-dealer boss can pin down the venture capitalists’ money and make boatloads of money himself. Mike doesn’t count on the connection he starts to feel for the small town, the local folks, and most especially, for Liza herself.

But Liza has her own secrets too, and she’s not looking for love or anything like it. What’s more, when the truth about Mike’s mission comes to light, Liza, Kathleen, and all of the Silver Bay people feel betrayed by Mike… but his own beliefs have been shaken as well. Ultimately, it’s up to Mike to reverse the damage done and try to save not just the town, but the friendships that have come to matter so much to him.

I found the beginning of Silver Bay a bit slow. The book has multiple narrators, and after a brief introduction told by Kathleen, we spend the first long chapter of the book looking through the eyes of 10-year-old Hannah. This did not feel like a wise choice to me; it’s a book for adults, and the child viewpoint was by necessity somewhat weak and narrow. Once Mike is introduced, the story opens up in scope, and as I got a bit further into it, I was hooked.

The storyline itself isn’t particularly unique. I feel like I’ve seen the basic footprint of the story in other books or movies: Small town, outside big business coming to ruin things, quirky locals banding together to fight the good fight, etc. The love story too proceeds along mostly predictable lines. Of course, Mike falls in love with Liza. Of course, her secret, tragic past keeps her from being able to open up. Of course, Mike’s business dealings threaten all of the relationships he’s built.

All that being said, there’s a lot going for Silver Bay as well. There are some truly delightful supporting characters, especially tough old Aunt Kathleen and her would-be beau Nino, fellow whale-chasers Greg, Yoshi, and Lance, and even Liza’s daughter Hannah, who ultimately takes a big hand in helping to save the town.

What would a Jojo Moyes book be without a tragedy? Yes, the secret from Liza’s past that eventually comes to light is awful and terribly sad… and yes, I did get a bit teary in the final third of the book. The author does a masterful job of giving just enough hints along the way to let us know that the secret is a doozy, and once revealed, it’s impossible not to feel for Liza and her sad story.

Again, I saw the ending coming from about a mile away, but that’s okay. Having a pretty good idea of how it would all work out didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book. It’s a quick read, and after the first several chapters, it’s a book that will pull you in and make you care.

This isn’t my favorite Jojo Moyes book, but it’s a good choice for fans who’ve read all of her more recent novels and want more.

Interested in this author? Check out my reviews of other books by Jojo Moyes:
The Girl You Left Behind
One Plus One
The Ship of Brides
Me Before You
The Last Letter From Your Lover

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The details:

Title: Silver Bay
Author: Jojo Moyes
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication date: Originally published in UK in 2007
Length: 338 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Library

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