Tuesday, August 2, 2016

THE HOUSE BETWEEN TIDES BY SARAH MAINE - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine. Thanks so much to Simon and Schuster Canada for sending me a copy of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


I really don't even know where to start with this review, it was such an unusual book.

This story basically follows two timelines, one of which is Harriet "Hetty" Deveraux, who has just inherited her great-grandfather's house (technically her great-grandmother's half-brother's house). Theodore Blake was a fairly well established artist in his time, but became a bit of a recluse towards the end of his life, hiding secrets that no one in Hetty's family knew. This timeline follows events occurring in present day, 2010.

The other timeline is that of mainly Beatrice Blake, Theodore's wife, along with the occasional insight from Theo himself. This timeline starts in 1910, soon after the wedding when Theo convinces Beatrice to spend the summer at his family home in Scotland, promising calm and much inspiration for his art.

The story alternates between the two timelines, filling in the gaps to the questions Hetty poses, while unraveling secrets that no one saw coming.

I had originally marked this book as a thriller, perhaps optimistically thinking that the body found in the basement of the decrepit house would allude to a greater mystery. However, upon finishing this, I would say it is leaning more towards historical fiction than anything else. There is, of course, some excitement to discover who the body was, but it didn't really take precedent. This was more of a story of history and seeing what happened on the island so many years ago. If you are looking for a book about solving a murder, this isn't really it.

Initially, I found this book a little hard to get in to. The writing style took a little to get used to, it was a bit more jarring switching time periods than I am normally used to, so that may have been a problem. The other part that made it hard to keep reading was at the beginning, there are, I think, too many chapters on Beatrice. Hetty had just made it to the house, and then it was like three chapters of random, mundane things happening in 1910. Looking back, it makes sense, but at the time, it made it hard to get in to the story. Once I got the hang of the perspectives, I did find it easier to read.

This book was kind of two halves, but woven together, and I feel like the book dealt a lot with that duality. In the 1910 chapters, you see Beatrice and Theo, and initially, you feel sorry for Beatrice, and kind of dislike Theo. It was an arranged marriage, but the pair seem to enjoy each other enough. However, I felt like in the beginning, Beatrice was new to the whole situation and Theo was emotionally unavailable and detached. He had another art project to work on, couldn't do things with her. He did neglect her. But at the end, when you see all that has happened, I understand where Beatrice is coming from, but I felt immense pity for Theo. His life had not turned out anyway like he thought it would and to top it all off, Beatrice does what she does, it's no wonder he became a recluse.

In the present day chapters, you see Hetty grow more and more fond of James Cameron, but I also felt weary of James. He seemed to have a hidden agenda, and was always poking his nose in everyones business. In the end, I think he was still searching for answers.

I did like Hetty, just not as much at first. She was very naive about the whole concept of converting the old house into a hotel, but she was aware of her naivety. At the same time, I found she only stood up for her ideas if it was with James. With Giles and the others, she just sat silently, while they talked for her. By the end, she does grow and is able to stand up to them, but I just wish she was better with that at the beginning.

One thing I find myself wishing for in this book is some graphics. The story is about art, as well as a house on some amazing land. I just wish there were some of Theo's paintings and sketches, floor plans for the hotel, heck, I would have settled for a notebook page with a partially filled in family tree, that just kept getting added to, if you've read this book, you know you need one! The book was good without the graphics, but I really think it could have benefitted from them as well.

I will say that I really enjoyed the journey this book took me on. Following the dual timelines, seeing history unravel, it was really interesting. I've always been interested in genealogy, and just multi-generational family stories in general, this one was really great at showing what was going on over time, without giving too much away. There were a couple times where I thought I knew what Theo's secret was, or who the body was, but each time I was proved wrong. I really was guessing until the very end.

Overall, I enjoyed this story very much, and definitely recommend it if you are looking for something a little bit different.