On a sultry summer’s day in 1980, five friends stumble upon an abandoned lakeside cottage hidden deep in the English countryside. For Kat and her friends, it offers an escape; a chance to drop out for a while, with lazy summer days by the lake and intimate winter evenings around the fire. But as the seasons change, tensions begin to rise and when an unexpected visitor appears at their door, nothing will be the same again.
Three decades later, Lila arrives at the same remote cottage. With her marriage in crisis, she finds solace in renovating the tumbledown house. Little by little she wonders about the previous inhabitants. How did they manage in such isolation? Why did they leave in such a hurry, with their belongings still strewn about? Most disturbing of all, why can t she shake the feeling that someone might be watching her?
The Shadow Year is a story of secrets, tragedy, lies and betrayal. It’s a tale that explores the light and dark of human relationships and the potential the past has to not only touch our present, but also to alter our future.
The story opens with Lila receiving a letter from a solicitor’s firm about a piece of property that now belongs to her. She has no idea who it’s from, but knows that after the tragedy she recently went through, she’ll do anything to get away.
Sometimes we all just need to get away, right? Or at least we feel like we need to get away. Most of us don’t have the opportunity to act on it like Lila did, and Kat before her. There’s just something that sounds magical about living off the land, a year away from everyone, except those that you are closest to. A little cabin, a little lake, a lot of land. Yes, there are hardships you will face, and I know I don’t have the skills to live off the land, but it still sounds…peaceful, calm and simple. The exact opposite of my sitting here, writing my blog post, watching Netflix on another screen, checking my emails on my phone and reading a couple lines off my e-reader between writing sentences.
But there’s a lot more to this story that was skims the surface of that lake. There’s mystery, deceit, love and so much more in this book. And this book reveals secrets from the start to the finish. You get a little more with the turning of each page, from Kat’s story of the past and Lila’s story of the present.
Richell did a great job of jumping back and forth between the two time periods and telling this story, but as it is with every book that does this, there’s always a time frame that I am more interested in and want more from it. In this book, it was Kat’s time, because I knew that a big secret was about to be unveiled. The story kept hinting at a tragedy and you know it’s coming and you just have to keep reading until it’s finally unveiled. And she also knocked it out of the park with the emotions in this book. You really feel a pull to each and every one of them and all their feelings throughout this book, whether it be on the initial stay in the cabin, or Lila’s new journey there. You really get a sense of who they all are and get connected with them.
This book is definitely a page turner. I give The Shadow Year 5 out of 5 bookmarks.
The Shadow Year is the May pick for SheReads.org. Make sure to check out other reviews on this book, as well as an interview with Hannah Richell.