Spotlight on “The Vacation House” by Jane Shemilt

by LitStack Editor
The Vacation House and author Jane Shemilt

About The Vacation House

Paxos, Greece

The vacation house is a luxurious getaway for a wealthy English family, windows open to sun and the sea, a sparkling swimming pool, and a verdant garden. One hot summer night, while the parents and their friends drink wine and amuse themselves, a young woman—the teenage daughter of the Greek caretaker—ventures for a walk on their private beach. Her life will never be the same again.

London, England, Ten Years Later

Julia is the perfect spouse and mother. Slender, blonde, expensively dressed, she’s the classic “yummy mummy” of high society: cook, organizer, arm candy, and speechwriter to her influential husband.

But behind her winning smile is a stifled woman trapped in a gilded cage, stricken with anxiety and perfectionism. When Julia meets Laurel, a therapist who promises to help her find fulfillment, Julia opens herself up to the hope of a different future.

Bound By The Past

What happened in Greece all those years ago that binds these two women together? And will uncovering the truth destroy everything… or set them free?

Editorial Reviews for The Vacation House

Publishers Weekly

This engrossing tale of psychological suspense from Shemilt (The Patient) centers on Sofie, a Greek girl living on the island of Paxos, and Julia, the daughter of a wealthy English couple who own a vacation home there. Sofie and her family are caretakers serving the needs (and whims) of Paxos homeowners and their guests. In the summer of 2003, while Julia’s family is vacationing on the island, 13-year-old Sofie is assaulted on the beach. 

Twenty years later, Julia is the apparently perfect yet deeply unhappy wife of James Grenville, headmaster of an exclusive English boarding school, having traded her dignity and independence for the financial security he offers her and their daughter. At a school event one evening, Julia meets Laurel, a therapist with links to her past that Julia can hardly imagine. Laurel senses Julia’s displeasure and promises to help her find fulfillment. 

Shemilt alternates Sofie’s perspective in 2003 with Julia’s in 2023, keeping the suspense at a steady simmer that gradually builds to a roiling boil by the conclusion. This tale of revenge and rebirth rivets.

Library Journal

Told in alternating points of view to correspond with the dual timelines, Shemilt’s latest (after All Her Secrets) finds its rhythm in the second act and never looks back. 

In 2003, everything changes for 13-year-old Sofie when she is violently assaulted by some guests of the Greek island home she cares for with her family. Nineteen-year-old Julia’s father owns the house, but Julia had left her family and guests early and didn’t know what happened to the shy young girl. 

In 2023, Julia is living in London with a husband she doesn’t love, but he provides for her and her daughter. Increasingly dissatisfied with her situation, she begins confiding in a therapist. Julia’s seeing positive personal results and returns to visit the Greek house, where she discovers what happened 20 years ago. That truth collides with her present in a gripping race that jeopardizes the life she thought she had. 

While the reveals are easily guessed, the finale is surprising and ultimately satisfying, if a little too neat. VERDICT Best for deep collections that serve a high demand for psychological thrillers.—Sarah Sullivan

Praise for The Vacation House

A beautifully written, suspenseful portrait of a settled life fracturing violently.”—Gilly Macmillan, New York Times bestselling author, on The Patient

“Mind games and cunning betrayals . . . [a] well-constructed psychological thriller. For fans of Carol Goodman and Mary Higgins Clark.”—Booklist on The Patient

“BRILLIANT, and frighteningly credible, partly because the characters are so beautifully realized. Exquisitely written, utterly gripping and almost unbearably tense—you’ll be thinking about it long after you read the final page.”—Lucy Foley, author, on The Playground

“Countless psychological thrillers get compared to Big Little Lies; Shemilt is the real deal.”—People on The Playground

“In The Daughter, what appears to be a simple abduction soon turns into something far more complex and baffling. Jane Shemilt builds layer upon layer of tension in a thriller you won’t be able to put down.”—Tess Gerritsen

About Jane Shemilt, Author of The Vacation House

The Vacation House

While working full time as a physician, Jane Shemilt received an M.A. in creative writing. She was shortlisted for the Janklow and Nesbit award and the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize for The Daughter, her first novel. She and her husband, a professor of neurosurgery, have five children and live in Bristol, England.

You can find and follow Jane on her website, on Facebook, Instagram, and X.

Titles by Jane Shemilt

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