Pub. Date: 02/08/2016
Publisher: Atria Books
Fans of Kate Morton will love this atmospheric and immersive debut novel of a woman who returns to her ancestral home in Scotland and discovers a century-old secret buried in the basement.
Following the deaths of her last living relatives, Hetty Deveraux leaves her strained marriage behind in London and returns to her ancestral home, a crumbling estate in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, with the intention of renovating and reselling it as a hotel, much to the dismay of the locals. As she dives headfirst into the repairs, she discovers human remains beneath a rotting floorboard in the basement, with few physical clues to identify the body. Who was this person? And why the makeshift grave?
Hungry for answers, Hetty sets out to unravel the estate’s secret—and those of its former inhabitants, including Beatrice Blake, a woman who moved there a century ago with her husband Theo, a famous painter who seemed to be more interested in Cameron, a young local man, than his own wife.
Following whispered rumors and a handful of leads, Hetty soon discovers that no one knows exactly what happened to Beatrice, only that her actions have reverberated throughout history, affecting Hetty’s present in startling ways.As some of you may know, I currently still live in Scotland so I love novels set here. The Scottish landscape is incredibly emotive, stunningly wild and expressive, beautiful and dangerous at the same time. It is the kind of landscape that becomes an extra character, it changes where the story goes, affects the feel of the book overall. Maine's descriptions of the Outer Hebrides are beautiful and are a part of some of the best moments in the book. There is an environmental awareness to this book which is triggered by the role of the landscape. This goes hand in hand with Maine's awareness of the importance of class in the United Kingdom. Although discussions of feminism and race have taken precedence over the discussion of class in recent years, it is becoming a topic again due to how latent class difference is affecting modern day politics. Maine works out the 19th-century tension between the upper class which struggles with its entitlement and the lower class which struggles with their disenfranchisement and shows its repercussions in the modern day. It makes for really interesting reading and is one of the few contemporary novels I've read lately which addresses these topics.
A novel split into two different stories always runs the danger that one of them is more interesting than the other, leaving the reader to dread shifting between them, rushing through one story just to get back to the other. This isn't entirely the case with The House Between Tides. Both Hetty's story in the present and Beatrice Blake story in the past are well-written and interesting, with different things going for them. But it is the latter where the emphasis seems to lie. Beatrice feels realer, more fleshed out, and her part of the novel is also where most of the action and most of the revelations take place. At times Hetty isn't as interesting, too easily swayed by other characters to the point where you want to shout at her. But her story does function very well as a framework for Beatrice's. In a brilliant way, Maine informs her "present day story" with what she reveals in her "past story", which brings out almost thriller-like elements in The House Between Tides. Combining history and mystery together always makes for a fast and engrossing read, and Maine makes sure to keep the reader enticed with little twists and turns.
As said above, Maine's nature descriptions are absolutely stunning. Her writing paints beautiful pictures which are recognisable to anyone who has seen even pictures of the Outer Hebrides, let alone been there. For a debut novel, Maine's writing style is very strong. Her characterisations are on point, dialogue believable and there are some really great moments in which she keeps the tension going very well. It's historic elements are well-researched and don't read as antiquated and irrelevant, which is unfortunately frequently the case with historical novels. Although perhaps not quite as intriguing as Rebecca, to which Maine's novel is being compared, The House Between Tides does keep its reader going. It's set up as a puzzle, which means the reader can race through the novel very easily. Although the conclusion isn't a major surprise, but the way there is major fun.
I give this book...
The House Between Tides is a great historical novel which explores different time lines and class tensions. Maine's writing is beautiful and intriguing, even if at times the narrative flags a little bit. I'd recommend this book to fans of Historical Fiction and Suspense!