Author: Hannah Richell
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: June 20, 2013
Number of Pages: 416
How I Got It: She Reads May selection
Summary: With a novel that Anita Shreve calls "engrossing and clever," Hannah Richell returns to the literary scene with her newest novel, THE SHADOW YEAR. Encompassing atmospheric storytelling, graceful prose, and layered plots Richell leads readers through twists, turns, ups, and downs to an explosive and emotional ending. THE SHADOW YEAR is told from dual perspectives, differing by 30 years. In present day we meet Lila, a young interior designer recovering from the devastating aftermath of a miscarriage. Mysteriously, Lila inherits a dilapidated cottage in London's Northern Peak district and decides to rehab it in hopes that the restoration will not only breath life into the house, but back into her soul as well. Thirty years earlier, five friends from university decide to shrug off the constraints of society and build a paradise in that same run down home. Living off the land and relying on each other, the five friends spend one unforgettable year together. But as the plotlines progress and Lila begins to untangle the life the cottage once contained, she discovers that even in the light of good intentions, unavoidable secrets are bound to be discovered.
The dual storyline in THE SHADOW YEAR kept me flipping the pages and I was unable to put the book down at the end of any chapter. (Does anyone else tell themselves "I'll stop at the end of the chapter."? I like a designated starting and stopping point.) Chapters flew by and I just couldn't bring myself to take a break until it was absolutely necessary (my family likes me to feed them and stuff.) The earlier storyline had me thinking of Walden long before the book is mentioned. Living off the land, self-sustainability, and drinking in the beauty of nature caused much daydreaming by me in my college American literature class. Author Hannah Richell re-awakened those dreams with her lush descriptions of the lake, the cottage and the surrounding land. Thoreau, being secluded solitarily, dove into deep personal introspection. Richell twists this landscape to highlight personal interactions in a secluded group. The dynamics of the group appear "normal" enough at first (recent graduates uncertain about their future) but become darker as the novel progresses. Kat's quiet obsession with Simon may have fizzled out in a different setting but at the lake it becomes stronger. As Simon becomes more and more dominating, tensions rise until a dark chain of events propels the first storyline to merge with the second.
The group at the lake drew my attention the most in the novel. As the initial excitement of their seclusion wears off, the red flags begin to appear with Simon and I was still trying to figure out the twists right to the end. The title is an absolutely perfect choice because Richell was able to strike just enough of an uneasy feeling without pushing the reader to full terror.
** I received this book in exchange for an honest review**