In the present day Lila and Tom live busy lives, with inner heartbreak, when Lila unexpectedly gets bequeathed a property. In 1980 Ben, Carla, Kat, Simon and Mac are finishing up at University and about to head out into the world. On a hot day in their last summer together, they head up to the Lakes.
It doesn't take long to work out the most immediate connection between the two timelines, but the story flows along well. There are plenty of twists and turns in the narratives as the story slowly unfolds for the reader with the timelines beginning to move towards a convergence.
I enjoyed this story, but I found it hard to feel empathy for what are basically a whole lot of rather unlikeable people, in both timelines. By the end of the story, I felt a lot of anger towards one character in particular, or actually two, who basically ruined a whole lot of lives for their own selfish desires. So while the story was a good read, and I wanted to know what happened, I really felt angry about the characters and what they did. May sound a little vague, but I don't want to put spoilers.
So at the end of it all, I wasn't sure whether 3 or 4 stars, so plumped for 3.
on 15 July 2013
Five friends stumble upon a remote cottage and decide to stay and live there. 30 years later Lila arrives at the same cottage after being sent a key by an anonymous person. Who sent the key and which secrets does the cottage hide?
This book is one of the best books I have ever read. The suspense that the author creates is amazing and nail biting. I was drawn to the story from the first few pages onwards.
Life at the cottage is brilliantly described. From the beauty of the surroundings during the summer season to the hard and cold struggle during the winter months.
Every alternate chapter tells the story of the five friends and then jumps to 30 years later and captivates the reader with Lila's "adventure". I raced through the book and couldn't wait to find out if and how the stories are connected.
The book reads like a puzzle. Little bits fall into place here and there the further go on with the book. The author has such a talent for leaving little hints. More than once did I read a page twice and thought "no way". You'll have to read the book to understand what I mean :-) .
The Shadow Year is set both in the current day and in 1980. In the current day, Lila and Tom are dealing with the loss of their child. Lila is struggling to cope and the sanctuary of a remote cottage in the Peak District is just what she needs. In 1980, five friends turn up at the same cottage and decide to spend time there. But relationships within the group soon start to fracture.
This is a very well-plotted book that kept me guessing throughout, right up to the very end. There's a lot of description of the area around the cottage, maybe a little more than I personally needed, but I found that once I was into the book I was able to gloss over that a bit to get to the story.
I liked the two time frames that ran alongside each other. I knew they were linked and I had inklings as to how, but it all unfolded gradually and the author really was quite clever in how she held back until it was just the right time to divulge all. This is a very enjoyable read about self-sufficiency, jealousy, grief, love and friendship.
Lila is mourning the loss of her infant baby when she receives a letter informing her that she has inherited a cottage tucked away in the remote countryside of the Peak District in Northern England. She has no idea who has bequested the cottage to her, but when she visits it she feels a connection to the area and decides to live in the cottage and renovate it, leaving her husband behind in London. Whilst the cottage has obviously been empty for many years, there are signs that it was inhabited and that the residents left in a hurry.
Jump back 30 years. Kat and her four best friends have finished university when they discover the cottage by chance and decide to spend a year living in it, subsisting off the land. Kat has long been in love with Simon, the "leader" of the group and she is hoping that one day that affection will be returned. However when her sister arrives, the dynamics of the group will be irrevocably changed.
This is a very cleverly constructed novel in which each chapter alternates between the past and the present and which builds in tension as the tones darkens. The author has written it in such a way that you guess what's going to be revealed, but only shortly before each reveal happens. Sometimes the clues are buried in Lila's story and sometimes in Kat's. Having said that, I did feel that the final twists were apparent from about the 75% mark. I didn't like it as much as Secrets of the Tides, but I still found it compellingly readable. If you enjoy Kate Morton's writing, you're bound to also like Hannah Richell.
Interior designer Lila, married to Tom, and living in London, is suffering after the loss of Milly, their baby daughter. Milly was born prematurely after Lila fell down the stairs and Lila cannot forgive herself for the accident, especially as she can only remember part of what happened. Husband Tom, finding it difficult to cope with the tragedy and with Lila's grief, throws himself into his work, making Lila feel alone in her unhappiness. When she unexpectedly inherits a remote, tumbledown cottage situated next to a lake in the beautiful Peak District, Lila, hoping to find some peace and solace, and needing some time away from Tom, decides to take on the challenge of renovating the old stone property. There she meets William Mackenzie, who farms the land a few miles away from Lila's cottage, and William's kind, but confused mother, Evelyn. In time, the beauty and solitude of Lila's new surroundings, begin to work their magic - however, Lila is having troubling dreams and flashbacks, and she is also beginning to realize that although she was supposed to be alone at the time of the accident, she is now aware that there was someone else in the house. But who?
Thirty years earlier, on an intensely hot summer's day, five student friends: Simon, Kat, Mac, Carla and Ben find a remote, derelict old stone cottage, situated next to a beautiful lake in the Peak District. Simon, a good-looking, charismatic young man and the natural leader of the group, convinces the others to take the opportunity to drop out of the rat race for a while, and have an attempt at self-sufficiency. Kat, who is secretly in love with Simon agrees readily, and the others, tempted by the beauty of their surroundings, agree to fall in with Simon's plan. At first, all goes surprisingly well, but soon Simon begins to detrimentally exert his power over the others and, when an unexpected visitor arrives at the cottage, the group dynamics alter considerably and then tragedy follows. (No spoilers and there is a lot more for prospective readers to discover).
Moving smoothly between the two periods of time, Hannah Richell deftly weaves her storylines together and pulls the reader right into her tale of secrets, lies, guilt and betrayal; she also builds a feeling of increasing unease throughout her narrative. Although not entirely convincing in places, and the amount of characters in the two stories means that we do not get to know any of them really well, I seemed to be just in the right mood for this and read the entire book in one very lazy session in the garden. With some beautiful descriptions of the Peak District, some lovely details of the home Lila creates from her inherited tumbledown dwelling, and a twist in the tale right at the end, this story makes for an enjoyable holiday, down-time or bedtime read, and I could also see this being made into an entertaining TV series.
on 21 July 2016
This is the second of Hannah Richell's books I have read and I loved every single second. The way she develops the characters. you once empathised with become strangers, as you start to question their actions. The two stories running together made me want to keep reading chapter after chapter - I could not put it down. I look forward to reading more by Richell she is a very talented writer and I can't wait to see what she writes next.
Richell's second novel, like her first, is set in two periods: the present day and the 1980s. In the present day story Lila, desolate after her baby daughter was born premature, finds that she's been left a rustic cottage in the Peak District, and travels there (leaving husband Tom in London) to recuperate. She becomes increasingly fascinated with the area and the cottage, and forms a close (though non-sexual) bond with William, a much older farmer, who is able to comfort her. But the tranquility of her new life can't stop Lila thinking about the past - both about how she came to lose her child and about her parents' troubled relationship, and her ongoing difficulties with her mother. She also becomes fascinated with the history of the cottage, and why she has inherited it.
Lila's story is interwoven with that of a group of university students who come upon the cottage after graduation, and decide to spend at least a year there, living 'off the land' and escaping the materialism of Thatcher's Britain. Under the leadership of the charismatic and controlling Simon (who, surprise, surprise, is from a wealthy background) they spend months living in extreme simplicity. But emotionally the group is not simple at all. Cat, a vulnerable girl abandoned in her teens by her parents along with her sister Freya, and the survivor of an unhappy foster home, has fallen madly in love with Simon, but he won't commit. When Cat's sister Freya turns up, and Simon shows signs of being attracted to her, tensions begin to bubble, particularly as Mac (the quiet, reasonable man in the group) is also in love with Freya. As the year continues, and one of the group falls pregnant, the atmosphere becomes increasingly deadly - something terrible is very likely to happen. But what did happen, and what is the link between Cat's story and Lila's?
I liked this novel much more than Richell's first, which I didn't enjoy at all. The descriptions of the Peak District are lovely, and the idea of a group of people trying to live off the land (though perhaps more 1970s than 1980s?) an interesting topic for a novel. Richell gives a good sense of the awkward and bickering communal life, and the almost 'Lord of the Flies' atmosphere that Simon creates. The Cat/Freya/Simon/Mac complicated relationship was rather intriguing (though Ben and Carla remained underdeveloped, which was a pity). In the present day story I liked reading about William and his life on the farm, and found Lila's bond with him rather moving. I thought Richell also handled Lila's grief, and her sense that she had to escape from her London life and go into psychic retreat, rather well.
However, while the characters and plot appealed to me much more than in 'Secrets of the Tides', I still didn't feel as moved by the novel as I should have done, I think, and I found some of the later plot twists unlikely. Would a group of unexceptional students who said that what they really enjoyed was 'sitting around drinking and smoking pot' really have the energy to go back to a peasant lifestyle? Could someone really spend thirty years impersonating someone else, especially if they were not the same age? Would Cat have really been able to force the thoroughly spoilt and unpleasant Simon into doing what he did? Why (bearing in mind what Mac knew about the cottage) did he go along with Simon's loony schemes for so long? Would he really have done what he did just because 'he wanted people to like him'? The final twist to the story (which reminded me of Genet's 'The Maids') seemed melodramatic, and in reality would have probably left one of the characters suffering unbearable guilt. I also have to say that I didn't find the characters on the whole as well-developed as I would have liked. Simon was so nasty that I wondered why the group put up with him, while Richell could have examined in more detail the psychological effect of Cat and Freya's childhood on them as young women. I also didn't feel that Cat would have brushed off Freya's accusations as airily as she did - after all, the two sisters were extremely close. Nor did I believe in how Lila's mother had evolved over the years. Lila and Tom I have to say I found rather bland (rather like Dan and Dora in 'Secrets of the Tides'), and with little that was memorable about them other than their longing for a child and Lila's interest in the cottage.
Ultimately I found this a pleasant and quite involving weekend read, but rather improbable as a story, and with characters that were rather too shallow for the potentially emotionally complex plot. It wouldn't put me off reading this author again, but it's also not a book I'll revisit.
on 10 November 2013
The concept of this book is quite good and It is well written But It drags on a bit and I feel could have been condensed down to at least half the number of pages.The final chapters are so predictable I raced through them just to finish the book
on 10 April 2015
I was lent Hannah Richell's first novel - Secrets of the Tides and I loved it. Therefore I was really keen to read her second novel. I was not at all disappointed. Both stories have many twists and piece together beautifullly. Also both books have a great sadness to most of the characters. I feel the author crafts a very clever and emotional read. I really hope, Hannah Richell will deliver more of the same.
on 15 July 2014
I really enjoyed this book. A woven tale of tragedy and triumph, heartbreak and love. I don't want to give anything away, but as someone whose best friend are my sisters, this book touched me somewhere deep inside with the horrible way that Kat behaves towards her younger sister. I am not sure how likable i found some of the characters; two in particular. But the story unfolds nicely and left me with tears in my eyes at a few points. Definitely worth a read