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Book Review: Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell

Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell 195x300 Book Review: Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell

Ive always wondered how much truth there was to Tolstoys assertion that all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way. It seems to me as though theres a common thread in the misery of the average family: the fact that a group of individuals are forced, thanks to the umbrella of familial connection, to remain in each others lives, no matter how desperately they wish to be elsewhere. Even if there is distance involvedwhether spatial distance, generational distance, or ideological distancefamily members seek each other out, picking at the scabs of their shared histories until they bleed and fester.

The ambivalence and inescapability of the family connection is starkly, frankly examined in Hannah Richells superb debut Secrets of the Tides, a novel whose slightly twee title belies its depth and insight. Told across two time periods and the points of view of three of the Tide family members, the novel is rather like a cobweb in design: a broad swoop of threads that gradually knit together until they meet in a thickly wound conclusion, the central revelation of the plot.

When Dora Tide learns that she is pregnant, she is beset by a bevy of concerns, all of which have roots in the tragic, complicated past of her family. She is struck by the fear that having a child may mean giving up the intellectual endeavours and career she has worked so long for; by the niggling suspicion that her love for her partner may be something fleeting; and by the terrible dread that she is incapable of safely, lovingly raising a child.

These troubles are all traceable to her childhood, a frayed and tangled thing of misspent time and misguided silence, of uprootings and shifts, of judgement and betrayal. And, of course, of one event in particular whose influence has been like that of a rock tossed into an already unsettled pond: ripples crashing into each other, interrupting and dispersing into a maelstrom of emotion and disjunction. As the circumstances behind this event are slowly revealed, Doras ambivalence over her pregnancy becomes understandable to the reader: when we learn of the circumstances behind her mothers first pregnancy we can see that Dora is terrified of a history that is beginning to repeat continuing to do so all the way through to a reenactment of the terrible conclusion with which she is still unable to cope. But its only in reaching out to the past that Dora can hope to 'set things right for the future.

The nature of Secrets of the Tides'makes it a challenging book to review: tugging at all on the thread of its narrative will cause it to unspool until all of its secrets are laid bare. But its a beautifully constructed book, intimately written and elegantly plotted. We see certain events through each point of view characters eyes, but Richell does so in a way that avoids redundancy, which takes a good deal of skill. The use of the contrasting settings of bustling London and the lost country manor of Clifftops to dichotomise the family members, their dreams, and their different ways of grieving is also worthy of mention, and is instrumental in creating and maintaining the schism between the key characters. The plot relies heavily on parallels and circularities, but bar the awkward prologue, this generally works well, without the heavy-handed overtness that can often result from such an approach.

The Secrets of the Tides'quietly written book that takes its dialogic cues from nineteenth century epics and those of setting from the gothics, and with these inspirations and more behind it its no surprise that the outcome is something eminently readable and tragically moving.

Rating: star Book Review: Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richellstar Book Review: Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richellstar Book Review: Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richellstar Book Review: Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richellblankstar Book Review: Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell (excellent)

With thanks to Hachette Australia for the review copy

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Hannah Richell discusses Secrets of the Tides

pixel Book Review: Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell


  1. I added this book to my wishlist when it was first released great review Stephanie
    shelleyrae @ Bookd Out recently posted..Review: Peaches for Monsieur le Cure by Joanne Harris

    • Stephanie /

      Thanks, Shelleyrae. :) I hope that you enjoy this one, too, and sorry for being so vague about the plot in my review!

  2. Lovely review! It certainly sounds as though its an emotion-stirring novel!

    • Stephanie /

      Thanks, Margaret! It certainly isI hope you enjoy it, should you get a chance to pick it up. :)

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