Well this is a belter of a book, one that both took me by surprise and delighted me with the affection I felt for the key characters. In my mind a successful book has a number of elements, a mystery, a strong plot underpinned by believable characters, preferably in extraordinary circumstances, In Her Wake hits these and has that special something extra too.
Bella has led a sheltered life. She’s a librarian at a university, the wife of a much older, protective man David. Nothing is too much for him, he even lovingly reminds her when to put a sweater on to avoid feeling the cold. Bella and David return to The Vicarage in Cornwall, Bella’s childhood home, where she had been home-schooled by her adoring mother Elaine. The funeral was a fairly dismal affair, Elaine and her father Henry having been estranged from their wider family so it is after a pretty bleak stay that they prepare to leave, but then events take a turn for the worse. Henry leaves Bella a note telling her that her whole life has been based on a lie, not a little lie but a big fat juicy one.
After this shock Bella struggles to cope, unsurprisingly, and begins to find David’s solicitous attention stifling rather than soothing. Dwelling on the information that Henry had belatedly bestowed, she decides to travel to St Ives to investigate what her father has told her. Leaving David behind she boards a train and for the first time in her life, has only herself to rely on. In St Ives she finds a place to stay and learns about the Celtic legend of Morveren.
I’m not going to say anything further about the plot as the less you know going into it the more delightful the experience will be. What I will say is that this is a psychological thriller of years gone by. From the very first page I had a sense of unease but with no clue as to what was going to be revealed. This is no fast and furious read full of twists and turns, it is the wise older sister to that style, full of real unveiling of the characters their own actions to expose the truth behind the façade. This rarefied storytelling allows each sentence to mean something at times with something approaching poetry.
With the characters all experiencing a wide range of emotions the author did a fantastic job of portraying those who relished in confrontation with those who avoided it and then when the subject matter switched, those who’d been happy to shout the odds, behaved differently, and yet remained entirely believable – what I’m trying to say that each character was the combination of their experience, no one was always shouty or always timid, depending on circumstance, and typically difficult situation, they reacted accordingly which made for a brilliant read. There was no doubt in my mind that these were real people, struggling with an unusual situation.
The setting itself, lends itself to magnificent description but the author adds to the beauty of the scenery by contrasting it with the inside of a one particular house, fusty and dark full of memories, truths, despair and desperation. The scenes by the sea where Bella pondered on the fate of Morveren, were sometimes dark, but again, not always so we get the contrast in the setting as well as those of the characters.
If you couldn’t already tell, I loved this book. Psychological thrillers are not the place I expect to meet characters that get under my skin quite so much, and that plural is fully intended, there were a few people in this book that I wanted to meet along the way, to give them a hug and wish them well on their journey.