Great Western Beach makes for a great summer read – especially if you’re sitting on Great Western Beach in Newquay. The novel was written by Emma Smith, whose real name is Elspeth Hallsmith, in 2008 and describes her childhood, much of which was spent on Great Western Beach, Newquay, between the two world wars. The family were in reduced financial circumstances, her father, who was an undiscovered artist, was off in west Cornwall living a hedonistic lifestyle at the artist colonies and Emma spent many days at the beach. The book is a wonderfully atmospheric memoir of a 1920s and 1930s childhood in Newquay.
Emma Smith was born in Newquay in 1923, her full name being Elspeth Hallsmith. She lived in Newquay until the age of 12 with her mother and father, as well as an older brother and sister and a younger brother.
She recalls the rocks, the sea, the beaches, the picnics, the teas and pasties, the bracing walks, the tennis tournaments and bathing parties, the curious residents and fascinating holiday-makers – relishing every glorious, salty detail.
But above all this is a portrait of a family from the astonishingly clear-eyed perspective of a nine-year-old girl: her furious, frustrated father, perpetually on his way to becoming a world famous artist but suffering the indignity of being a lowly bank clerk at the local Midland Bank; her beautiful, unperceptive mother, made for better things perhaps but at least, with three fiances killed in the Great War, married with children at last; the twins, fearless, defiant Pam and sickly, bewildered Jim, for whom life is always an uphill climb, and baby Harvey, brought on the same winds of change that mean that life, with all its complication and wonder, cannot stay still and the Cornish playground of Emma’s childhood will one day be lost forever.
remwbay emma smith great western