|the shadow year|
The Shadow Year, by Hannah Richell, begins with Lila receiving a mysterious envelope from a solicitor. The envelope contains a key, deeds to a cottage, and a map to the remote Peak District, but we don’t know who has left Lila this property or why.
Lila is in a state of grief due to the recent passing of her father and an accident that caused the loss of her infant daughter. She struggles to recall what happened to cause the accident and her grief is so immense it is affecting her marriage to Tom, who does not know how to help her. Lila sees the gift of the cottage as a welcome distraction and a way to escape her pain, so she talks Tom into heading up there to check it out.
Rewind back to the 1980’s when a group of five university graduates take a trip to a lake one of them recalls visiting as a child. While at the lake, they come upon the neglected cottage and decide that it may be possible to move into it and to live off the land for a year. Their plan has its ups and downs as the work and supplies needed to keep them all fed are difficult and not always sufficient, not to mention the sometimes strained relationships between group members.
The novel continues to move back and forth between the present and the past. Lila spends more time at the cottage, working on renovating and fixing it up and meeting some of the locals. The university students’ adventures are intertwined with Lila’s discoveries as she works, revealing connections and helping to explain some of the feelings Lila has towards the place.
The novel moves slowly in the beginning and just as I was willing it to pick up the pace, so many things began to happen it became impossible to put down. Richell does a wonderful job of tying everything together and just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, she surprises you with the truth. This is a really good read that keeps you on your toes!