The Shadow Year – Hannah Richell

The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell



Orion (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd )


My Rating
4 stars

With two gradually converging storylines, one set in the 80s, the other in the mid-noughties, Hannah Richell weaves an intriguing tale of secrets and lies, of family and friendship, which captivates the reader from the opening lines.

The principal setting is a dilapidated, isolated cottage in the Peak District.  Five friends from university stumble upon this remote idyll in the summer of 1980.  Their education is over, they need space to breathe so they decide to go on a gap year with a difference.  Instead of travelling the world they embark on a journey of self-discovery, holed up together in splendid isolation.  But are they truly self-sufficient or are they merely playing house?

In 2006, Lila discovers the same derelict cottage at a time when she needs time alone to recover from a personal tragedy.  It looks as if the previous occupants left in a hurry and she wonders who they were and what became of them.

The author cleverly teases out the narratives, scattering little crumbs of clues for the reader.  You think you have all the pieces and the jigsaw is complete but you can never be completely sure of who is being truthful and who is witholding vital information.

I can’t say I was particularly fond of any of the characters but this made them and the story all the more compelling.  A cleverly  constructed story which will keep you reading until the wee small hours.  Think  The Good Life crossed with The Secret History!

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  1. Marie says:

    Oooh, I was thinking about The Secret History even before I read your conclusion. This sounds right up my street! I love the idea of stumbling across somewhere by accident and it seeming like the previous inhabitants had left in a hurry, so intriguing. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention!

  2. Charlie says:

    Interesting plot, I’ve not read The Secret History, but I know The Good Life, and with my non-existent knowledge of this book it sounds really good, different than I might have thought from the summary.

  3. Teresa says:

    Marie I have a weakness for stories about groups of undergraduates getting up to no good, preferably in the 80s, although my uni experience was somewhat different! Nothing will ever surpass The Secret History for me but this is a very good story peopled with very flawed characters.

  4. Teresa says:

    Charlie, it’s a darker “good life” probably more like Lord of the Flies come to think of it! I’ll stop now as I’ m probably confusing everyone!

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