Culture Street

Books

Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell

On October 7, 2012


By Sophia Whitfield

Hannah Richell’s debut novel, Secrets of the Tides, is a sweeping family drama, with an intense sense of family and place.

Richard and Helen Tide leave their home in London to settle in Dorset near Richard’s parents. Helen struggles with the move, feeling imprisoned by her new solitary life on the Dorset coast. After the death of Richard’s parents, Helen and Richard move into Clifftops, the Tide family home, with their two daughters.

We meet the two daughters, Dora and Cassie, ten years after a tragedy has torn the family apart. Dora is happily settled in the East End of London with her artist partner Dan, but self-doubt begins to creep into her mind once she discovers she is pregnant. She realises that in order to move forward with her own family life she must confront the past.

Cassie, the older troubled daughter, has dealt with the tragedy by leaving the family behind to find her own way in the world. Dora must meet up with her estranged sister in order to unlock the secrets of the past.

The relationship of the Tide parents, Richard and Helen, was irreparably fractured once the tragedy occurred, but there were already cracks appearing leading up to the event. The Tide family were struggling with their daily lives when  finally, in the wake of a terrible tragedy,  they became unable to move forward with ordinary family life.

The story is told through the eyes of Helen, the mother, and the two daughters, Cassie and Dora. Helen now lives alone at Clifftops, the house that imprisons her and wracks her with grief. It is the way she punishes herself and allows guilt to consume her.

Each family member must come to terms with the past in order to move forward. In order to do this the mystery of the tragedy must be revealed, perhaps with the revelation will come redemption

Richell captures the grief and anguish that surrounds a family when faced with a devastating tragedy. The story unfolds in a series of flashbacks from the daughters. By the time the girls are adults the reader is imbued with a deep understanding of their lives and the ramifications of one fateful day ten years ago.

As the layers are peeled back and the truth revealed Richell shows how a family can, in fact, move forward with their lives after personal tragedy. But in order to do this, the Tide family must be honest with each other, a challenge after ten years of silent blame.

Secrets of the Tides is a rich family drama, full of dark secrets. Richell has created a flawed, but ultimately believable family rocked by a terrible tragedy.

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