Book Review: The Cottage at Glass Beach – Heather Barbieri

Title: The Cottage at Glass Beach
Author: Heather Barbieri
ISBN: 9780062107961
Pages: 320
Release Date: May 15, 2012
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Amazon Vine
Rating: 3 out of 5


When Nora Cunningham discovers her husband’s infidelity, she takes her young daughters and flees to Burke’s Island, off the coast of Maine. Nora lived on the island as a young girl, but has not gone back there since her mother disappeared without a trace. But now, she returns to visit her aunt Maire and to grieve for her marriage and think about the direction she wants the rest of her life to take.


The Cottage at Glass Beach is a novel littered with Irish folklore and mythology. If you aren’t familiar with it, especially with the story of the selkie, you may find that you feel like something is missing from this novel, as I did. Many parts of the story directly reference these stories, while other aspects are more subtle. If you’re familiar with these myths, you will likely thoroughly enjoy this book, but otherwise, you might find yourself a bit lost.

Barbieri has a dreamy quality to her writing, and it works with the mystical plotline of The Cottage of Glass Beach quite well. Her writing and descriptions really are beautiful. Throughout the book, it always seems as though understanding is just around a corner, a bit out of reach, and the writing style underlines that feeling. It makes for a enjoyable, mysterious reading experience. The appearance of Owen, a shipwrecked fisherman who has no memory of his past, and Nora’s mother’s disappearance all those years ago add to that overall feel of the story.

However, both storylines aren’t as well explored as I would have liked. With Nora’s mother, finding out what happened to her seems important in the beginning, but it fades into the background as the novel progresses. The same thing happens with Owen – he seems to be crucial to the plotline, but ends up just being a trivial part of the storyline. Indeed, his inclusion is a bit confusing, as nothing much seems to be done with his character. He could have used a more meaty storyline; as-is, he’s only relevant as a catalyst for Nora’s character growth.

Overall, though The Cottage at Glass Beach was a quick read, I had many issues with it. The dreamlike nature of the book worked very well for some aspects, but in the end, it seemed as though the plot fell apart a bit. It was predictable, and the driving force of the book (for me, Nora’s mother’s disappearance) has a confusing resolution. If you’re a fan of Irish myths and legends, you should definitely pick up this book, but otherwise I’d pass on this one.

Other books by Heather Barbieri:

The Lace Makers of Glenmara – Heather Barbieri

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  1. I liked it a little more than you but I can see your points. I did enjoy the “myths and legends” aspects. My review goes up in a couple of weeks.

  2. I liked it a little more than you but I can see your points. I did enjoy the “myths and legends” aspects. My review goes up in a couple of weeks.

  3. i like Irish myths and legends. so i would love to read this book . thanks for sharing this detailed must read evansing by glen klassen this is also an Irish novel full of mystery.

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