Bella has been living a so-so life, controlled first by her over protective mother Elaine, a woman so paranoid about the monsters outside of the safe walls of the Old Vicarage that she insists on home schooling her daughter, and latterly by her husband, David, a man twice her age, who she met when she was a student in his University class. She thinks she is happy, believes that this is how her life is meant to be, until her mother’s death leads to a revelation which rips apart everything she thought she knew about herself and her family. For Bella is not who she thought she was, who her mother led her to believe that she was. Her journey to discover the truth about herself leads her to Cornwall, and to a dark secret she begins to wish had never been revealed.
‘In Her Wake’ is a beautifully written psychological thriller. The premise of the story is grounded in reality, and while the concept is maybe not entirely unique, the manner in which Amanda Jennings tells Bella’s story is both beautiful and heart wrenching at the same time. Written in first person, from the points of view of Bella and her father, Henry Campbell, the story is full of twists and slow building tension. The language and description used are superb, almost poetic, painting a wonderfully clear picture of Cornwall, of the sea and the legends surrounding it which play as large a part in the story as any of the characters.
This is not a fast paced thrill ride and if that is what you are seeking, this may not be the book for you. What it is, is a book that in spite of this is still capable of delivering surprises and twists, and the overwhelming sense of dread and astonishment as you start to realise the full nature and, at times, horror of the situation which unravels within this book. You feel the guilt, the emotion, the bewilderment and the exhaustion of the characters as they live it, the confusion of Bella as she struggles to understand what has happened and how her life has changed, and the ultimate betrayal she continually feels throughout the novel as one by one, people who she felt she could trust let her down.
There is a certain amount of inevitability which is skilfully built into the story, and while some revelations are not truly unexpected, they still manage to surprise and perhaps bewilder the reader, such is the skill of Jennings in creating the scenes. It is a sign of good writing that, in spite of what he has done, as a reader I was still able to feel for Henry, a man who gave up everything he believed in in order to protect the woman he loved so fiercely. A man who had to suffer in silence over a heart wrenching loss, one which is perhaps the most shocking and moving reveal in the whole novel.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is one which I would advise you savour rather than rush through. It is not that kind of story. If you rush you may miss the beauty of the setting, the calm of the sea to contrast against the out of control whirlwind which is Bella’s life. There are so many facets to this book, the way in which it covers the full chain reaction from an event which had taken place some twenty-five years earlier, dipping from past to present seamlessly and so completely and thoughtfully details the life of the central characters after that fateful day. I know it is classified as a crime/thriller and yet I’m not sure that title fits as it is so much more than that. Is there a crime element? Yes. Is it a psychological drama? Yes. Were there times that I felt frustrated and wondered why Bella didn’t just go to the police and let them sort the whole mess out. Yes. Oh yes. Bella is naïve and makes mad choices but then this is a reflection of her wholly introverted upbringing and, for me at least, very believable. Is it a tragic tale of the sacrifices and choices that people make in the name of love? Absolutely. But however you paint it, whatever genre you choose to place it in, this is a brilliant piece of writing and I highly recommend it.
In Her Wake is available to order here: