2016 Reviews · historical fiction

Book Review: The House Between the Tides by Sarah Maine

house between the tides

Book blurb:

Kate Morton meets Daphne du Maurier in this atmospheric debut novel about a woman who discovers the century-old remains of a murder victim on her family’s Scottish estate, plunging her into an investigation of its mysterious former occupants.

Following the death of her last living relative, Hetty Deveraux leaves London and her strained relationship behind for Muirlan, her ancestral home in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. She intends to renovate the ruinous house into a hotel, but the shocking discovery of human remains brings her ambitious restoration plans to an abrupt halt before they even begin. Few physical clues are left to identify the body, but one thing is certain: this person did not die a natural death.

Hungry for answers, Hetty discovers that Muirlan was once the refuge of her distant relative Theo Blake, the acclaimed painter and naturalist who brought his new bride, Beatrice, there in 1910. Yet ancient gossip and a handful of leads reveal that their marriage was far from perfect; Beatrice eventually vanished from the island, never to return, and Theo withdrew from society, his paintings becoming increasingly dark and disturbing.

What happened between them has remained a mystery, but as Hetty listens to the locals and studies the masterful paintings produced by Theo during his short-lived marriage, she uncovers secrets that still reverberate through the small island community—and will lead her to the identity of the long-hidden body.

4 stars

Debut novelist Sarah Maine tackles the gothic fiction genre, made famous by authors such as Kate Morton in her book, The House Between the Tides. The House Between the Tides is a complex and layered dual time frame novel, set in the wilds of the Outer Hebrides.

In 2010, Hetty Deveraux inherits the ruins of Muirlan House in Scotland and she soon has grand plans of turning it into a hotel complex. When work begins to renovate the house, skeletal remains are found under the floorboards. This leads Hetty into an investigation into her distant relatives past and their connection to Muirlan House. Hetty’s discoveries then make her second guess her plans to overhaul the house. Linked to Hetty’s story is a narrative thread about Theo Blake, a naturalist and famous painter, who is also an ancestor of Hetty’s. In 1910, Theo and his second wife Beatrice must contend with feuding family members and antagonistic local community members, while living at their summer getaway of Murilan House. Theo and Beatrice’s story is laced with heartache, a love triangle and many secrets. Readers find the two plots eventually converge to a crashing ending, in this mystery based novel.

I will admit that I found The House Between the Tides slightly challenging. However, it did seem as long as I focussed and stayed on track with this novel, I did enjoy reading The House Between the Tides. What struck a chord with me most about The House Between the Tides, was the beauty and depiction of the setting. Maine paints a beautiful and refined picture of the location of the novel. I could feel the strength of the sea air, I could sense the unpredictable nature of the tides and I could picture the natural world that inhabits this region. Maine also does a good job on the character front.  Maine presents her readers with two equally likeable heroines. Hetty in the 2010 storyline and Beatrice in the 1910 storyline, are both well formed characters. They are supported by equally interesting male characters in their respective time frames. The plot on the whole was compelling, the time frame shifts are handled well by Maine and the mystery element propels the reader to stay invested in the book. The conclusion was poignant and well worth staying with the book until the end.

If you are searching for a novel that echoes the work of gothic fiction novelists such as Daphne du Maurier, The House Between the Tides would easily fit that bill. With an intriguing central mystery concerning ancestors, set in an untamed region of Scotland, makes The House Between the Tides a worthy debut novel.

The House Between the Tides by Sarah Maine was published in July 2016 by Allen and Unwin https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/fiction/popular-fiction/The-House-Between-Tides-Sarah-Maine-9781760291402https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/fiction/popular-fiction/The-House-Between-Tides-Sarah-Maine-9781760291402

 

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