23rd April 2017
Gallows Drop by Mari Hannah, crime thriller set in Northumberland (“a real hanging suspense”) ...
Echoes of Time by Anne Allen, novel set in Guernsey (present day and 1940s).
Natalie Ogier, fleeing a violent boyfriend, abandons her fast-paced London life as a hedge fund manager, to return to the island of her birth, Guernsey. She purchases a beautiful cottage – a new build, constructed on the site of an old farm destroyed by fire some years previously. The cottage is delightful with stunning views of Rocquaine Bay and the white tower of Fort Grey, but something about the cottage makes Natalie feel uneasy and, in no time, she finds herself plagued by disturbing dreams, odd occurrences and even visions from the past. Her only neighbour, Stuart, is the grandson of Bill and Olive, the original owners of Natalie’s home, and soon the young people are thrown together in their quest to establish what really happened to Olive.
The other strand to the novel is Olive’s story from the 1940’s, beginning with her marriage to surly farmer, Bill. Olive, witnessing the departure of most of the island’s young men to the war, fears that she may be left on the shelf and so accepts Bill’s proposal. She hopes that she will be gaining some freedom and a better life for herself, but she realises her mistake almost immediately and wishes she had stayed with her parents. It is in these chapters set in 1940’s Guernsey that Allen’s real skill is evident. Her depiction of life under Nazi occupation is masterful, clearly very well researched and powerful to the point of being painful in places. Allen conveys with sensitivity Olive’s desperate situation and highlights the misery and deprivation of those years when the islanders almost starved to death.
This is Anne Allen’s fifth Guernsey novel but have no fear on that score – it works perfectly as a stand-alone novel. What is really apparent is Allen’s love for Guernsey. Echoes of Time creates a wonderful impression of the island with its stunning scenery, sparkling sunlight, relaxed pace of life and friendly folk. If there were any decency in the world, Allen would be being paid by the Guernsey Tourist Board and I’ve certainly been inspired to plan a trip there.
This is a well written story with good characterisation and skilfully taut plotting. It’s the kind of read that gets you off to bed an hour early so that you can get back to the story – sheer delight.
Ellen for the TripFiction Team
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