"The author captures the different manners, morals and customs between the two time periods very well"
family drama /mystery
1910 / 2010
This, according to the blurb, is Ms Maine’s first novel and was previously published as Bhalla Strand. The writing is accomplished, and the story follows the tradition of two tales a century apart, linked by a place and various descendants. It is not, however, a time-slip novel.
Muirlan House is situated on an island, close to shore but cut off by the tide twice a day. The description of landscape and wildlife attracted me almost more than the characters, for it brought back many happy memories of my own visits to Lewis and Harris.
The modern day (2010) heroine inherits Muirlan House from a cousin and plans to turn it into a hotel. On her first visit, Hettie learns it is now a ruin. Recent storm damage to the walls has revealed a skeleton buried beneath the conservatory. Discovering the identity of that person is the hook that runs through the whole book as we meet the characters who once lived and loved there in 1910 when Theo Blake, a successful artist, takes his bride, Beatrice, to live in their new house among poverty-stricken crofters. She loves the island, but her husband seems to withdraw from her and becomes cold and unloving. She does not know why. We are told this part of the story through Beatrice’s eyes, and I feared that the bones would prove to be hers. Had her husband murdered her?
The first chapters are slightly slow, and it is tempting to rush through them, which probably accounts for some of my confusion. The author captures the different manners, morals and customs between the two time periods very well; but I confess that I resented being dragged from one century into the other. I easily identified with Beatrice, but Hettie seemed a rather flat character even though she had her own problems in 2010 with property developers and antagonistic crofters. For me, the focus of the novel was in 1910 and if some way of solving the mystery of the bones could have been devised, the 2010 section could have been let go or at least, not been so prominent.
But having said that - a good read!
© Jen Black
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