Friday 15 January 2016

Reviewed: In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings

In Her Wake will be published by Orenda Books on February 10, 2016.

Thanks to Karen at Orenda for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Moving; atmospheric; compelling; mysterious; expressive

In Her Wake was my most anticipated book of 2016 – favourite author, fantastic publisher and a really strong hook of a blurb had me practically bursting in excitement, especially the moment it made its way to my Kindle! Amanda’s writing appears to have developed beautifully, with the storytelling in her third novel now mesmerizingly expressive, each sentence delivering real power and emotion without the need for heavy and long-winded description. The story reads effortlessly, with the combination of a highly atmospheric setting, multi-dimensional characters and a series of chilling and surprising twists serving its purpose of turning In Her Wake into an incredibly gripping, frankly brilliant novel which will leave you pondering and questioning the intricacies of family and how far one is willing to go to make theirs whole. Cancel all plans to do anything (ie. wash, eat or sleep) and settle yourself down because once you pick up In Her Wake, you’re going to want to cancel real life and power your way through an excellent story.

The book begins with a prologue that genuinely sent shivers down my spine – a dark, intriguing dream that almost instantly makes you care about what’s to come and I found myself already having to resist the urge to flip to the end and see how everything turns out. Protagonist Bella faces a devastating series of events, completely changing the life she’s known. The start is her mother’s funeral but there is far more to come. The pain Bella felt at the beginning of this novel struck me straight away, the honest and believable pure emptiness of a young woman grieving for her mum felt very realistic, and true to the mixture of confusion and wondering how life moves on from the bereavement. Bella’s character is interesting throughout the entire course of this novel and her feelings and choices were always fascinating – she was understandably affected by the unravelling secrets and becomes more and more closed in on herself, with no real friends and no one left to trust.

Most of the novel is set in St Ives, Cornwall, and the setting was beautifully and hauntingly told. The stunning cover image to this book really strongly represents the atmosphere and mystery that comes across in the words Amanda uses – creating a really vivid portrayal of a quite gorgeous but almost claustrophobic setting. The stormy weather and the crashing of the waves are just two pieces of distinctive imagery which equates to not just the atmosphere of the seaside town but also the mind-set and feelings of a character in Bella who almost overnight becomes trapped in a life she feels she can no longer call her own. I loved how the setting itself felt characterised, changing between a calm, tranquil, picturesque location to somewhere occupied with hurt and sadness. Through Amanda’s choice of words, we get a real feel to Cornwall and I especially liked seeing some of the culture and learning some of the Cornish phrases and sayings, all relevant to the plot as Bella grows more educated on the new life she has entered. The story of the mermaid was also another extremely enthralling aspect to a novel so intelligently written.

The pacing to this story was highly addictive, luring you in nicely to the story and then throwing you off guard with another taut twist in the tale, another secret you weren’t quite expecting. In Her Wake is one of those books which isn’t completely controlled by twist after twist – they’re not thrown onto every page. Instead, it gifts you a compelling, very emotional story which consumes you, fascinates you and then is when the twist comes that changes everything you thought you knew. Those, for me, are the best kind of twists, far more chilling than the stories you spend wholly waiting for and expecting another twist because instead, you’re allowed the chance to explore the complex core to the story for itself, enjoying the writing in full rather than just the twists (as great as they are). The whole theme of family and the secrets that lie within them is written in a way that completely moved me – where choices made and hidden truths are no longer firmly right or wrong but rather, completely up to you to consider and decide for yourself.

In Her Wake is an outstanding novel, a triumphantly tense and spellbinding story of what makes a family and how those secrets you try so desperately to keep, always find their way out, sometimes with the most tragic of consequences. Full of sharply observed emotions, complex characters and an exquisitely depicted Cornwall setting, this is easily one of the best and most powerful books I’ve ever had the honour of reading.

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