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Aussie Book Review: Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell

Secrets of the TidesSecrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hard Copy provided by the publisher, Hachette Australia / The Reading Room

The Blurb
“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 up 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?

Secrets of the Tides is a compelling family drama with a dark thread of suspense at its heart.”

Overview
The story is told (in the third person narrative) alternately from the viewpoints of Dora, Helen and Cassie Tide, the three main female characters. The narrative includes many shifts between past and present, but is structured so well that both perspectives as well as time shifts segue easily into one another and capture an emotional journey which elaborates on the tragic event and repercussions which shaped these women’s lives.

We begin the story with Dora, who is in a committed relationship with Dan, pregnant with her first child and suffering from nightmares and panic attacks as a result of the inability to let go of past events over which she had no control. In her attempts to figure it all out, she realises that she needs to revisit her past in the hopes that unanswered questions will be answered but, in doing so, she needs to go to the root of the problem – Helen, her mother!

Helen, eighteen years old, young and carefee, dreaming of a great future, falls pregnant and ends up marrying the father of her child, Richard Tide. Her first-born is Cassie and eighteen months later, Dora is born. With the demise of Richard’s parents, the family inherits Clifftops, where Richard grew up. Whilst Richard is quite keen to move back to his family home, we see the reluctance in Helen and, as time marches on, we see how she becomes extremely dissatisfied with her life and her marriage with her and Richard drifting further and further apart. With Richard mostly absent due to work commitments and the amount of time he spends commuting, we see Helen become so self-absorbed with her own wants and needs that she doesn’t stop to think about the consequences of her spur of the moment actions until it is too late.

Guilt, tragedy, anger and hopelessness all combine, and after all is said and done, will this family be able to put the past behind them and embrace forgiveness?

My Thoughts
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but found it a bit daunting writing this review as the book contains so much that the blurb does not allude to, thereby making it a bit difficult to summarise without giving too much away.

Whilst I empathised with Helen, my sympathies definitely lay with both Cassie and Dora – Cassie as she gets caught up in her own quagmire of teenage rebellion and feelings of self-worthlessness; and Dora, who yearns for a proper relationship with both her mother and sister.

And, without attempting to stereo-type, but thinking back on my own teenage years, Hannah Richell appears to have captured the essence of teenage self-absorption, which I guess can only be put down to the hormones running rampant through our bodies in those sometimes turbulent years of impending adulthood which envelops so many. Of course, having a mother who is equally self-absorbed and unhappy with her own life, would definitely make for a time of turmoil rather than opportunity, when she doesn’t even notice that her child has grown into a woman without having had the usual “mother-daughter talk” or helping with the purchase of a first bra.

The plot, albeit a bit dark at times with scenes ranging from infidelity and psychological problems such as self-inflicted harm to attempted suicide, has an underlying moral lesson and that is, that your lies can come back to haunt you.

In my opinion, Ms Richell has created a thought-provoking family drama with complex emotional layers and believable characters that draw you into their stories and, although I personally felt that she left a bit of a loose end with regard to the resolution of the tragedy, I can’t help wondering if this was intentional – perhaps there is another story there!

Compelling, emotionally charged, cleverly constructed and fast-paced, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Secrets of the Tides to readers who enjoy a dark thread of suspense and I would most definitely keep an eye out for future books by Ms Richell, as she has a talent that is going to rival many in her genre, which this debut novel confirms.

A Bit About the Author (Adapted from the author’s website)
Hannah Richell loves books and film and has been lucky enough to market both in her career.

Secrets of the Tides is her debut novel which she began writing a few weeks after her son was born. Her son was a relatively good sleeper, thus enabling her to spend an hour or two at her computer each morning. Several drafts later she was fortunate enough to attract an Agent and after a bit more tweaking, the manuscript was sent out to publishers.

Hannah currently lives in Sydney with her husband, two young children and a black-and-white cat called Lennie.

My thanks to both the publisher, Hachette Australia and The Reading Room for providing me with a hard copy of this novel.

Secrets of the Tides is the sixth book towards the 2013 Australian Women Writers’ Challenge.

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