Saturday, December 11, 2021

Dark Tides

  Dark Tides
Author:  Philippa Gregory
Publication Information:  Atria Books. 2020. 464 pages.
ISBN:  150118718X / 978-1501187186

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The ramshackle warehouse was on the wrong side of the river, the south side, where the buildings jostled for space and the little boats unloaded pocket-size cargos for scant profit."

Favorite Quote:  "I am only ever honest to myself. My face in the mirror is the only one that I trust with my secrets. I never lie to myself."

Disclaimer:  Philippa Gregory is an author who has long been in on my list to read. I think I read The Other Boleyn Girl a long time ago, so much so that I don't remember it. Dark Tides is book two in the Fairmile series, which I did not realize when I chose to read the book. I have not read the first, and my thoughts on this one may be impacted by that fact.

Dark Tides, set in the 1600s, is really two stories in one. The first is the story of a family on the banks of the river, trying to survive through commerce. The second is the story of one family member who immigrated to the New World, only to, at times, not find it that different from the Old. The stories are told in almost alternating chapters. They are, of course, related, but really could have existed one without the other.

Ned's story in the New World seems the more tangential one. Although an interesting facet of US history particularly in the relationships with the First Nations, the characters and plot seem to be periphery to the main story in London. Ned himself is the only character is this part of the book who relates to the other. That, in effect, is the reason his story seems extraneous. All the other main character lie on the London side of the story. In many ways, I could have skipped the entire set of chapters about the New World and still have read essentially the same story.

In London, on the banks of the wrong side of the river lies a small wharf warehouse. The story here is of commerce, of the past coming forward to haunt the present, of deceit, of a family standing together, of guilt, and of a group of strong, albeit very different, women. The story has drama, romance, and intrigue. However, most of the characters remain somewhat one dimensional and do not really come alive for me. For example, it is clear that Alys has survived a lot in her past, and she has managed to single handedly create a home and a business for herself, her mother, and her children. That background projects a strong, shrewd businesswoman. Yet, Alys falls for the machinations of someone who is very clearly portrayed as a conwoman. It seems a stretch and unbelievable especially as the story does not really reflect on why and how.

That being said, the most interesting characters end up the conwoman and Sarah, perhaps because most of the "action" in the book centers around these two women. The conwoman is very clearly and unapologetically in pursuit of her own ends. It is clear and one dimensional but nevertheless fun to follow. Sarah's character, particularly in the portion of the book set in Venice, finds the limelight. Perhaps, that is the setup for a third book to come.

I enjoy the picture of the time and place that the book draws. I can envision both the wharves of London and the colonies of the New World. The characters have potential. For that, I would try a different book by the author.

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

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