This week I will be paying homage to another of my all time favourite publishers, Orenda Books. Sadly I can only cover a fraction of these during this feature, but if you want to get a better idea of the fantastically varied range of books published under the Orenda label, you can do that on their website here. I have a number of new reviews this week celebrating some of Karen’s finest authors and their brilliant work, and I’m thrilled to be taking part in a blog tour for one of the newest kids on the block, Steph Broadribb with her stunning debut, ‘Deep Down Dead‘ in January. I’ll have a teaser of my review on the blog just after Christmas, but you’re just going to have to wait for the full review until next year. Sorry. (Not sorry).
But to kick off the week and get everyone in the mood I am re-posting a review from earlier in the year for what I truly believe is one of the best books of 2016.
First up is the hauntingly beautiful ‘In Her Wake’ by Amanda Jennings.
A perfect life … until she discovered it wasn’t her own.
A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella’s comfortable existence. Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but also her life.
Chilling, complex and profoundly moving, In Her Wake is a gripping psychological thriller that questions the nature of family – and reminds us that sometimes the most shocking crimes are committed closest to home.
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.
A hauntingly beautiful 5 stars.
‘In Her Wake‘ can be purchased from the following links:
About the Author
Amanda Jennings made her literary début with the internationally bestselling novel Sworn Secret. Her second book, The Judas Scar, was optioned by a film and television production company shortly after release. She is fascinated by the ways people react to trauma and deal with its long-lasting effects, and also the complex relationships within a family unit.
She used to work at the BBC, but now writes full-time and looks after her three daughters and a menagerie of animals. She writes a popular blog and is a regular guest on BBC Berkshire’s Book Club. She enjoys running writing workshops, is a judge for the Henley Youth Festival creative writing competition, and is involved with the Womentoring Project, which offers free mentoring by professional literary women to talented up-and-coming female writers who might otherwise not have access to such an opportunity. She is a regular speaker at festivals and book events, combining her childhood love of the stage with her love of writing. She likes to be active, preferably beside the sea or at the top of a snow-covered mountain, and when she isn’t writing she can usually be found walking her dog and enjoying the peace and solitude of the great outdoors.