Author: Lucy Diamond
The House of New Beginnings compiles the stories of tenants at 11 Dukes Square in Brighton. We meet them individually and their stories unfold in alternating chapters. 11 Dukes Square is a three storey building housing 5 flats and when we first enter the building it is to discover that none of the tenants know their neighbours.
The tenants are a diverse cast of characters who all have their own complicated stories that resulted in them running from a previous life and finding themselves in Brighton. They all seem to be quite isolated and for the most part that’s the way they like it… on the surface.
Brighton offers a bright and vibrant new atmosphere by the seaside, a place that seems to embrace the joy of life.
Georgie is the first resident we meet, she has moved down from Yorkshire to be with her boyfriend who is working on an architectural project. The two have been together since high school and we soon discover that many of Georgie’s decisions have been made to fit in with Simon’s plans. The thought of them being apart for 6 months was too much for her so she packed up her life and moved to be with him. She left her job and all her friends to move into a flat that Simon picked without her even seeing it. The flat did not live up to her expectations and it got her new adventure off to a rocky start.
Rosa once worked in a high powered career she was good at but when things fell apart she packed up her life and moved to Brighton, enrolled in a cooking course and got a job in a restaurant, as more of a kitchen hand than anything else and with a bully for a boss. She hasn’t made any new friends, though she does talk to one of the other staff at the restaurant, and she has cut off contact with her old friends.
Charlotte has been struggling to overcome trauma and when she couldn’t do it in her hometown she moved to Brighton, got a new job and scheduled her entire evenings to ensure she always kept busy. Her new workplace is very team oriented with lots of team activities and bonding exercises, the last thing Charlotte wants.
Jo is a working single mother with a teenage daughter, early in the story she is rushed to hospital and Rosa finds herself agreeing to take care of teenaged Bea.
Margot is completely different to the other tenants, she is an older lady who has been living in her top floor flat for two decades. She has seen many tenants come and go.
The House of New Beginnings tells all of their stories and through the narrative we watch each of them grow through their pain and build new lives. Slowly they begin to engage with life again, build new friendships and reconnect with the old.
Diamond’s characters are likeable, interesting and complex. Their issues are relatable but they have all had very different issues to each other. I found the book very hard to put down each time I got involved because I always wanted to know what happened next for the character I was reading about but with alternating chapters it took a little longer than I would have liked.
Slowly the characters start to interact with each other and with time, and patience, they find themselves forming strong friendships and beginning new chapters of their lives.
All of the characters are intriguing in their own ways and I liked them all but Georgie was a little different; the bulk of her issues were ones that she brought on herself and it wasn’t until she started some serious self reflection that she realised that. Her journey was the one that spent as much time taking her backwards as moving her forwards. Her decisions have all been to go along with Simon yet she is still quite selfish and makes things all about her. She is quite a contradiction and though I found myself shaking my head at some of her decisions I also found her the most intriguing; both to see what scrape she would find herself in next but also how she would get herself out.
The House of New Beginnings is uplifting as well as heartbreaking and a beautiful tale of fresh starts.