Sunday, February 01, 2015

Book Review [2015:4] - The Silent Tide by Rachel Hore

528 pages

If there's one thing that makes me put a book straight down it is turning to the back cover and seeing a synopsis along the lines of  "1984: Petra is a struggling artist finding her way in the big city.... 1944: Philomena is trapped by her class...". Honestly I hate the whole 'parallels across time' genre! However this was an emergency library selection when I had three girls mucking around and desperate to leave and probably eat or watch TV or something other than immerse themselves in the wonder of books. Choose your battles! I grabbed a couple that had nice covers. I admit it: I judged the books by their covers. There could be a whole post about book covers, as I frequently do this, especially in charity shops. This book is nothing like its cover, which to me looks like an easy read, female 1940s detective story, perhaps with a mysterious ghost backstory. It is apparently her "best novel yet" which is a dreadful thing to put on the cover. Why don't they stop the quote at "beautifully written"? Anyway, I digress, but I can tell you my heart sunk when I actually got time to read the cover and the back of the book. Whoops!

Having said all that this book is captivating. It follows the story of two women whose connection is initially unclear. Both are single women making their way in the publishing world, Isabel in the 1940s/50s and Emily in the present day. The characters are well drawn and convincingly complex, both eras are immersive and atmospheric. 
Whilst the book's subject is ostensibly the complex relationships and life of Hugh Morton, the focus is really the parallels between life as a single woman in the 1940s and present day. There's plenty of complex characters and events are rarely as simple as they seem. The 'nearness' of both eras lends another layer of complexity, as characters frequently overlap both. I loved the way the focus shifted from the life of Emily to the life of Isabel, and the difficulties faced by career women in the mid-20th century. The relationships described are so believable, and not all neat and tidy, as fiction sometimes prescribes.

I was really pleasantly surprised by this book, and it serves me right for pre-judging it on the genre. I'm glad I took the time for it, and was delightfully engrossed.

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