Saturday, July 23, 2016

The House Between Tides

Title:  The House Between Tides
Author:  Sarah Maine
Publication Information:  Atria Books. 2016. 400 pages.
ISBN:  1501126911 / 978-1501126918

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The woman stood a moment on the old drive and stared up at the boarded windows, a silhouette against the grey walls, then she turned her back on the house and went down to the blaze on the foreshore."

Favorite Quote:  "Beauty might sustain the spirit, but it won't fill their bellies..."

A old, crumbling mansion on an island in the Hebrides. Locals with memories and grudges that go back generations. Ancestors and lords of manor known for their eccentricities. People who seemingly disappeared. A literal skeleton found not in the attic but under the floorboards.

Muirlan House is the house between tides, on a piece of land to which access depends on the tides. From the descriptions, the property sounds large at times and very small at times. Several locations on in and around the property are significant to the book, but unfortunately, I never quite get a picture of what this place looks like. I wish the book included a map or other layout of the Muirlan property and surrounding areas mentioned in the book. It would help my understanding and my enjoyment of the book.

The storyline itself covers two time periods. In 2010, Hetty returns to her ancestral home to make some decisions about the future. Her primary consideration is the development potential of the land. What she discovers is a local community with its own ties to the place and secrets buried for almost a century. She sets out to unravel the mysteries and to discover more. Almost a century earlier, Beatrice Blake comes to Muirlan House as Theo Blake's bride. Here, she discovers sides to her husband she never knew and the secrets he kept. She also discovers her own views and feelings. She discovers a world she never knew existed.

The story moves back and forth between the two time periods, each bit of the past revealing the story behind a discovery or a conversation of the present. Unfortunately, I find myself getting lost between the two time periods and all the characters in each period. Partly, that is because of the many relationships between the characters and the similarities of the names between the two times. Secondly, it is because of the abrupt shift between the chapters and even within the same chapter. The story shifts locations and perspectives sometimes without warning, making it challenging to follow.

The main focus of each time period is the two women - Hetty in 2010 and Beatrice a century earlier. Unfortunately, I find neither character particularly engaging. Both women seems to be at the mercy of their circumstances and the men in their lives; neither seems to proactive or a decision maker. I keep waiting for something more, but it never really comes. Another minor point. The book description states that "Hetty Deveraux leaves her strained marriage behind in London." However, nowhere in the book is that relationship clear. She and Giles do have a relationship, but it does not sound like a marriage throughout the book. It's not a big deal; it doesn't really impact the story much, but I do find it distracting.

The premise and the structure of the book does remind me of Kate Morton's books and Natasha Solomons' The Song of Hartgrove Hall. I love the atmospheric setting and the descriptions of the natural life found there; I just find myself less engaged in the actual story.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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