The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell is our book for the month of May at Shereads.org. The story follows a group of college students who want to escape the realities of adulthood for just a bit longer and also a woman who is struggling to regain her strength after a loss. The past and present are eventually brought together and the end will leave you with only one word... wow.
Synopsis from Amazon:
Still grieving the death of her prematurely delivered infant, Lila finds a welcome distraction in renovating a country house she's recently inherited. Surrounded by blueprints and plaster dust, though, she finds herself drawn into the story of a group of idealistic university grads from thirty years before, who'd thrown off the shackles of bourgeois city life to claim the cottage and rely only on each other on the land. But utopia-building can be fraught with unexpected peril, and when the fate of the group is left eerily unclear, Lila turns her attention to untangling a web of secrets to uncover the shocking truth of what happened that fateful year, in order to come to terms with her own loss and build a new future for herself.
Suspenseful and moving, with a deep secret at its heart, THE SHADOW YEAR is Hannah Richell's breakout book.
The past story takes place in the 80's and will appeal to all of us who have been through the tumultuous twenties, where real life is beginning and you just want to hold onto that carefree life for a little while longer. The reader is at first envious of this group of college students, living in a cottage on a lake with no responsibilities. But then, there is also the dramatic side of the story, as the characters begin to show their darker sides and tensions rise in the cottage. Simon infuriates us and charms us at the same time as the group's self chosen leader. We empathize with Kat, as she experiences longing, love, heartbreak, and hope. It is through her that we remember those decisions we may have made that we cannot go back and change.
The present day story has us empathizing with Lila, who has recently lost a child, and who inherits a cottage from an anonymous benefactor and decides to fix it up in the hopes that it will help her heal. It is the same cottage, and so comes our first inclination as a reader that somehow, these two stories, past and present, are going to come together. The author linked them flawlessly. The setting of the cottage is beautiful in both time periods and creates a longing in the reader to move out to the country where it is quiet and peaceful.
The plot was original and there were many little twists and turns in the story. The complexity of the characters made it hard to predict what path either story would take. The book was extremely hard to put down; one you could easily find yourself lost in for hours as you try to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. And the end... well, you just have to pick it up yourself to read it. As I said at the beginning of my review, the only word I had after reading the last few pages was...wow.
This book, as all books we have read recently at She Reads, gets five stars from me. :)