13 April 2012

Book Review: Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell

"Every family has its secrets.

Some are small, like telling a white lie or snooping through a private drawer. Others are more serious, like infidelity and betrayal. And some secrets are so terrible they must be hidden away in a deep, dark place, for if they ever came to light, they would surely tear a family apart...

The Tides are a family full of secrets. Returning to Clifftops, the rambling family house high on the Dorset coastline, youngest daughter Dora hopes for a fresh start, for herself and the new life she carries. But can long-held secrets ever really be forgiven? And even if you can forgive, can you ever really learn to love again?"

Rating: 5/5

I have to confess that this book isn't one that caught my attention until a review copy arrived on my doorstep, and I initially dismissed it as something I wouldn't really like to read, although I don't really know why! I read a little more about it on Amazon, and found that it was an interesting family saga, and the pre-reviews on there were excellent, and I decided to give it a try. I am so glad that I did because it was an utterly stunning book, and I was up until nearly 2am finishing it because it had me completely captivated, both with happiness at the book, and sorrow at the story. For a debut novel, this book is so well written, and with such an adorable cover, I hope this is going to be the hit it deserves to be.

The story tells the tale of the Tide family. There are parents Helen and Richard, who together have 2 daughters Dora and Cassie. Through a series of alternating narrative chapters, and a leap about in past and present time, the book tells the story that managed to split the Tide family forever, ending in a divorce for Helen and Richard, Cassie running away from home never wanting to return, and Dora feeling like that tragedy that occured one awful summer's day was completely her fault, with Helen also blaming her youngest daughter for their loss. It's a sad and emotional read that will have you in tears, sympathising and feeling the pain of these characters, but there is something utterly compulsive about it which means you just won't be able to put it down.

I found that Dora is the main character of the book, and we first meet her in the present day, when she and boyfriend Dan have some exciting news. However, things are revealed that show the strained relationship between mother and daughter, and slowly the story begins to unfold. I really like Dora, and felt incredibly sorry for her as the story progresses. It's clear she is haunted by something that happened in her childhood, and when it's revealed you understand why, it is truly awful. However, although I sympathised with Dora's mother Helen, I found myself really hating her and found the way she treated her daughter was disgusting, and some of the scenes with the pair made for awkward reading at times. Cassie, Dora's sister takes more of a backseat, but with her around you can see the impact that the tragedy of the family has on the family as a whole, and why she felt the need to escape Clifftops.

The fact that I really disliked Helen is a testament to Richell's writing, and how realistically she creates these characters. She writes their personalities, their pain, their sorrow and suffering so believably, you almost feel it with them, especially when the story is in the crux of the main story itself. I especially liked the way the book flitted between the past and present day, allowing you to understand why the adult characters behave like they do now as we can read their back story and apply that to the modern day one. I didn't find it confusing to chop and change time, or indeed the narrative as each chapter is headed by who it focuses on. Also, the writing changes tense, with the present day chapters being told in present tense, and the past in past tense. This was odd to read at first but you soon become accustomed to it.

As well as writing the characters incredibly well, Richell writes the setting of the book perfectly too. The old house, Clifftops, is written so beautifully you can imagine it easily in your mind as you read, and it brings the book all the more to life. This is a stunning novel, ridden with pain and sorrow which makes it a tough and uncomfortable read at times, but somehow you want to keep reading despite how sad it is, and how badly these characters are affected by the awful events. I found myself willing happiness for Dora, and that she would get the happy ending she so deserved. Secrets of the Tides is a really haunting and emotive novel, and for a debut, it truly is wonderful. If Hannah Richell continues to write novels like this, she will certainly have a strong career ahead of her, and she's done an amazing job with Secrets of the Tides. Read it - you won't be disappointed.

You can buy Secrets of the Tides as a paperback or an eBook now.

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