It’s so bleak…which is a bad thing…apparently.
I was recommended and then given The Shadow Year, the second novel from Hannah Richell and told that it had many twists and turns which I would enjoy, despite thinking dramatic twists and turns are quite cliché.
The clichéd opening quote also featured in The Shadow Year. So many times I have to read a quote at the start of a novel that is, more often than not, better than all the writing in the main part. After the quote comes a Prologue which is way too vague to have any real value at that moment, apart from the description of a lake which just feels important.
In the meat of the novel there are two main story lines. 1 is of a group of 5 freshly graduated friends and the other is of a woman who is struggling with grief: another cliché of story writing, I find.
It soon becomes obvious that these two stories are going to be linked when, in the 80’s, the 5 friends move into a cottage in the middle of nowhere while the present day grieving woman inherits the same cottage from her deceased father. Things slowly unfold and we go further and further into the lives of the characters. The turning point really comes with a wild night of drug taking in the five friend’s story, who are living off the land to survive.
This story has a few clichés and the twists are pretty predictable, which sometimes is nice because you know what you are going to get in a novel and it makes you feel awesome when you guess right. What I enjoyed about this was actually the boring things, like the grieving woman decorating the derelict cottage and hearing how the five friends in the 80’s survive living in the middle of nowhere with nothing but what they can catch or grow.
Having read other reviews on The Shadow Year, I have found that a few people said the book felt too bleak. Which it is. The characters are annoying, such as the main character in the 80’s storyline and the husband of the grieving woman, while the aforementioned grieving woman is…well, grieving a lot. But I enjoyed the changing emotions you feel, hating characters that you liked at first and vice versa.
The book ends with an epilogue that will make you go back and read the prologue in addition to a section of the book where it turns out the narrator may not have been so honest. This epilogue feels out of place and thrown on by the author who got this final twist idea from like, an editor or someone. It does not ruin the book and is not terrible. However, it feels weird, because the narrator has no distinct voice. So it seems strange to suddenly have an untrustworthy third person narrator at the end. It takes you out of the writing. Maybe that is just me?
But there is definitely a story to be enjoyed here. And I did enjoy it, bleakness and all. There are characters to be hated and characters to be loved. Hannah Richell takes a big gamble, making such key characters do things that no one would agree with, which I commend. There are faults, also, but don’t let them bother you.
Thanks for reading,