Book received from TripFiction.com
Mystery and Intrigue in the Outer Hebrides
My rating: 3 out of 5
Hetty inherits a large old house in the Outer Hebrides and wants to turn it into a fine hotel. The bones found buried under the floorboards are the least of her problems, as hidden pasts and secrets gradually become apparent. .
This debut novel by Sarah Maine takes place over two time periods, the recent past (2010) and a hundred years before (1910). The two timelines are skilfully entwined with Hetty (of 2010) trying to unravel the mysteries of her family’s past, whilst in 1910 the newly married Beatrice is trying to understand the sudden change in behaviour of her new husband.
Beatrice falls in love with the island as soon as she arrives. As she wanders around the island she meets her new husband’s tenants and workers, and comes to love the island’s thriving wildlife. Her views on all of this do not coincide with that of her husband’s, which gives the reader an interesting view into the social norms of the time. Can Beatrice survive the sudden coldness of her marriage? Will the wild and threatening weather of the Outer Hebrides stay outside the house, or be replicated within? .
Likewise Hetty loves the island as soon as she arrives in 2010, and is enchanted with the old house. However her dreams of turning it into a hotel and bringing new life and energy to the area are not met with enthusiasm by the locals. Hetty starts to investigate the history of the house and the occupants, becoming intrigued with what has gone on before her, and what may be going on now.
The mystery of who the bones belonged to is a thread that continues throughout the story leading to a climax at the end of the book. There are many parallels between the main characters of 1910 and 2010, many of whom are descendants of the earlier characters.
The location is beautiful. Between storms and rainy days, there are visits to stunning beaches, romantic ruins and sighting of seals and nesting birds. Both timelines are set in the summer, and the descriptions of the island make the Outer Hebrides definitely a place to visit for those who enjoy an outdoor holiday.
I found the changes between the timelines jarring. A large chunk of reading would be in one century, then a large chunk in the other. By the time I returned to the previous timeline, I had forgotten the fine detail of what was going on, and the cliff hanger that it had ended on. This made the story a little long winded for me, though the writing and story itself was excellent. There are a surprising number of editing/typo errors in the book for a professionally published book, which I found quite distracting. Overall however it was an good story, set in a stunning place, with interesting insights into the social norms of 1910.