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Book Review: The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell


The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell

This is a beautifully written novel that alternates between two stories. In the current day Lila and her husband Tom are struggling in their relationship after losing their first child after Lila fell down some stairs while pregnant. She can’t remember what happened when she fell but is nagged by the suspicion that there is more to it than meets the eye, even though she is crippled by guilt. She inherits a cottage in the English countryside from an anonymous benefactor. After visiting it, she decides to renovate the rundown cottage, despite her husband’s insistence that she returns home to London. Their marriage seems to be on the rocks, especially when she strikes up a friendship with a local farmer, alienating her husband even further. The second story is set back in 1980. Five university graduates and flatmates stumble across the same remote cottage and they hatch up a plan to drop out from regular life and live there for a year. Kit is especially keen as she doesn’t want to give up living with Simon, in the hope that he will fall in love with her. At first it is an idyllic retreat, and they spend lazy summer days swimming in the nearby lake. Simon and Kat begin a relationship, but as the seasons change the pressure of their lifestyle begins to take its toll and tempers are frayed. And then Kat’s sister, Freya, turns up on their doorstep and joins their small commune with disastrous results. The Shadow Year is a moving and intriguing book, peopled with memorable characters, and a plot that unfolds to a very satisfying ending, where the two stories finally come together. Hannah Richell is a very talented writer and this book won’t disappoint.

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