Culture Street

Books

The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell

On May 13, 2013

By Sophia Whitfield

Novelist Hannah Richell took centre stage last year with the releases of her debut novel Secrets of the Tides. It was an immediate bestseller, both in Australia and in the UK where it was picked up by the Richard and Judy Book Club.

Her new novel, The Shadow Year, delves into the secrets of the past revealing tragedy, deceit and betrayal. Richellís novel is written in two different timeframes, the early 1980s and thirty years later when the consequences of decisions made in the 80s are revealed.

On a summerís day in 1980, five university friends are reticent to go out into the world and begin making a life for themselves, instead they discover a remote cottage in the countryside and plan to spend a year in the cottage attempting to be self sufficient. Surrounded by a lake, the idyllic location is everything they had hoped it would be, but when the dark, bitter winter arrives life loses its beauty and despair descends. Kat and her friends struggle with the harsh winter and as tensions build an unexpected guest adds to the unrest in the cottage.

Thirty years later Lila arrives at the cottage after receiving it as a mysterious gift. She retreats, keen for solitude as she grapples to come to terms with her doomed marriage. The interior of the cottage has not been touched for years, the former inhabitants obviously left in a hurry and Lila feels an eerie unrest as if her every move is being watched.

As Lila tries to rebuild her life she strikes up a friendship with William, a local. He helps her to peel back the past, discovering the dark secrets that tore apart a group of five dear friends thirty years earlier.

Richell uses the seasons to turn an idyllic setting into a treacherous one. As the seasons change so does the mood and spirit of her characters. Central to the book is the loss of a child and the emotional outpouring of grief that causes questions to be asked and the desperate need for answers.

A captivating story of familial tragedy propagated by lies and betrayal. Richellís elegant page-turner will have you hooked.

Look out for our interview with the lovely Hannah Richell this Wednesday.

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