The House Between Tides
Atria Books | Simon & Schuster
US Release date:
August 2, 2016
also available as ebook
MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK
I am weary of hype, and sometimes a synopsis is so well written than it’s actually better than the book itself. So when I saw The House Between Tides presented with “Kate Morton (I have devoured all her novels) meets Daphne du Maurier“ (how could I forget Rebecca?), I could only succumb to the temptation, though with a bit of fear and trembling, I admit. Well, this was totally unjustified.
With some common flavor with Rebecca, the book opens with a scene set in 1945: an old woman throws into a bonfire things she wanted to get rid of from an old family property, she has the house boarded up and promises never to return.
Then the chapters of the book alternate between 2010 and 1910. Hetty has bought back an old family house on Muirland Island, not far from Skye, in the Highlands, with the idea to renovate it and turn it into a hotel.
But James, one of the neighbors, had recently found bones under a floorboard there.
Whose bones are they? Could Hetty’s discovery of what happened in this place a century ago impact her project today? And is the house really worth repairing? How will the other islanders react to her plan? What was her ancestor Theo’s relation to them?
In 1910, we meet Beatrice, just recently married to Theo Blake, a painter, photographer, and collector of dead birds, twenty years her senior.
They just moved from Edinburgh to Muirland Island. And there are families of tenants on their extensive property.
It was his refuge, he had said, a place of wild beauty, a special place, with endless stretches of bone-white sand, vast skies, and the sea — an-ever changing palette.
Beatrice soon realizes she hardly knows her husband, his past is hidden from her. Why? And why his seemingly love-hate relationship with Cameron?
The chapters around 1910 are sometimes presented from Beatrice’s point of view, sometimes from Theo’s.
And just as Beatrice tries to understand her husband, Hetty strives to uncover the mystery of their life, of what went wrong.
I really enjoyed the ambiance of the book, the wide and wild landscape, the birds, the place given to painting, the discussions about art, about the preservation of the environment, and the suspense stretching over generations. The natural milieu fit so well with the story and with the characters.
As she watched, a gull flew slowly along the ridge in front of her, carrying the last of the sun’s rays on its wings before it turned away from the house, dropped down to the darkening foreshore, and disappeared against the empty stretches of the strand.
It felt like a great harmony between the environment and the mystery taking place. You could feel the mood of people in keeping with the landscape, the mood adapting to the elements, or the other was around!
She felt wilful, as unrestrained as the elements themselves, for a different sort of morality operated here, where the skies were wide and open, and the island recognized only rules of its own devising.
The balmy weather had vanished completely, as if the fickle elements having indulged her for so long, now abandoned her, and she was confined to the house overshadowed by Theo’s moods.
And the very last twist was superb.
An author I definitely want to follow, alongside Kate Morton.
VERDICT: A very enjoyable atmospheric novel, spanning over a few generations, rich in landscape descriptions and suspense, that will delight lovers of Kate Morton’s books.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
Following the death of her last living relative, Hetty Deveraux leaves London and her strained relationship behind for Muirlan, her ancestral home in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. She intends to renovate the ruinous house into a hotel, but the shocking discovery of human remains brings her ambitious restoration plans to an abrupt halt before they even begin. Few physical clues are left to identify the body, but one thing is certain: this person did not die a natural death.
Hungry for answers, Hetty discovers that Muirlan was once the refuge of her distant relative Theo Blake, the acclaimed painter and naturalist who brought his new bride, Beatrice, there in 1910. Yet ancient gossip and a handful of leads reveal that their marriage was far from perfect; Beatrice eventually vanished from the island, never to return, and Theo withdrew from society, his paintings becoming increasingly dark and disturbing.
What happened between them has remained a mystery, but as Hetty listens to the locals and studies the masterful paintings produced by Theo during his short-lived marriage, she uncovers secrets that still reverberate through the small island community—and will lead her to the identity of the long-hidden body.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR