About this book: Still grieving the death of her prematurely delivered infant, Lila finds a welcome distraction in renovating a country house she’s recently inherited. Surrounded by blueprints and plaster dust, though, she finds herself drawn into the story of a group of idealistic university grads from thirty years before, who’d thrown off the shackles of bourgeois city life to claim the cottage and rely only on each other on the land. But utopia-building can be fraught with unexpected peril, and when the fate of the group is left eerily unclear, Lila turns her attention to untangling a web of secrets to uncover the shocking truth of what happened that fateful year, in order to come to terms with her own loss and build a new future for herself.
About the author: Hannah Richell was born in England. After graduating from the University of Nottingham, she worked in the book publishing and film industries. She now lives with her husband and two young children in Sydney, Australia.
Would I read this book, judged on its cover alone? I would. To me, it whispers of mystery and unsettled memories–both of which I love to find in fiction. Also, something I realize especially in hindsight, it possesses a terrific title.
If this book were a movie, I would rate it: R for sexuality and occasional drug use and profanity, though none is gratuitous or graphic.
Reminds me of… The Likeness by Tana French. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. The Last Time I Saw You by Eleanor Moran.
You’ll want to buy this book if … you enjoy meaty women’s fiction that includes thoughtful explorations of relationships and the human psyche.
Would I read another by this author? Without question. Her debut novel, The House of Tides, has all the markings of a novel I’d enjoy as much as this one…possibly even more (which is saying something).
My take: This is one of those books that captivated me right from the start. Richell’s style and tone are reminiscent of several other authors I admire (see Reminds me of..., above), as well as several other elements I most enjoy in a novel: quite a bit of mystery, a touch of suspense, and loads of relational tension. And it’s all wrapped up in the finest storytelling, the kind that draws you under and holds you down until you feel you can hardly breathe. To me, it’s women’s fiction at its best.
In Kat, Richell deftly crafts a character who is at once antagonistic yet still…somehow…sympathetic. It’s a mark of Richell’s skill that she is able to render her complexity so believably. Lila, on the other hand, is much easier to like, though she too has her flaws. She would hardly be worth our while as a protagonist if she didn’t.
The ultimate connection that draws these two characters together, and the final secret revealed, is one I’m still thinking about, days after reading the last page.
The Shadow Year will rivet you while you read it and haunt you thereafter.
Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.
End notes: On her website, Hannah Richell displays the variety of covers her books have received (which vary from country to country). I like this one (released in Australia/NZ):
Then there’s this one (UK paperback edition).
Which do you like best? Thoughts, opinions, comments?