The Shadow Years and The Shadow casting over readers

As far as I know, Hannah Richell has published two books: Secret of The Tides and The Shadow Years. I fortunately have both in my possession as birthday gifts from a friend who is also a brother to me. I read Secret of The Tides and even though I only have few pages left to finish, I have never actually finished it. The drama is so well-built that I sensed my heaviness built along with it. I took my time reading that one, rather slow, both because I tried not to rush into the “after-reading” feeling and because I needed breaks from that tragedy illustrated through the story.

I brought the second book of hers with me to France, and for the last few days, almost the same things happened again. I said “almost” as I actually finished the book this time. I even read the author’s interview at the end, seeing how Hannah said she was afraid she might not be able to drive off the “beaten path” of her first book. Even though both of the books orbit around one tragedy event which led people do towards paths belonging to “grey” area of the brains—quoted Hannah’s words herself—the Shadow Years brings out stronger pulling force inside me to search for the answers. When I finished it yesterday, I had to jot down my thoughts before they slipped away, and I rolled around on my bed still shivering a little from how I have been a part of the story, like a witness watching everything happening from the outside.

I must warn you, some spoiler alerts might be noticed soon, but I will try my best not to ruin your curiosity.

The story is based on a cottage, a still cottage placing almost in the middle of nowhere, but luxuriously being offered the finest beauty of nature all around. What happens in this still cottage is a time string connecting past and present events. One point, readers found themselves watching 5 recent graduated students in 1980 and another point, we will soon move back to a woman named Lila, living in London, who has just been in unfortunate event of losing her child. Reading about present event, I couldn’t help finding many resemblance and I am sure I might not the only one. The contrast Lila found between her urban life in London and her (a bit) spooky version in the cottage, is understanding for anyone under similar circumstances.

But stories about Lila is not driven factor for me. To me, Lila is a connecting dot, a result from all twisted events that happened. Reading about Lila calms me down, because what strikes me the most is the past.

 I marked notes throughout the book and when reviewing them, I felt as if I am watching a transformation of 5 young people—who are dreamers, who wish to not step yet into a so-called complicated adult and real world—to a point where each individual drifts off into their real form. Simon, a natural leader and a power addict. Mac, a silent guy who seems not to care about a single thing but also a person desperately need acceptance to be in a group. And Kat, the best transformation or revelation, I am still unsure. Only two others Ben and Carla I have found not going through major shifting.

I found my breath ascending and descending the closer it comes to an end. I understand what Hannah tried to deliver to readers, the “greyness” in people but I still cannot wrap my head around it, how a broken heart and lonely soul can lead Kat becoming someone else. Or maybe deeply it is never revealed until her dream got stolen away. Kat is a representative of a shadow, of dark side and Freya is for the opposite. But for whatever darkness Kat has endured through, she became a survivor, a too rational to be mad survivor I would even say. Freya, the late outsider stepping in, has been protected not to go through childhood tragedies, only found herself later going through an adulthood tragedy which she is never prepared for. 

I think on some level, readers can guess some details happening about the final truth. Maybe, that is why the author plays with our mind a little, make us be impatient a little more until the very end to untie all mysterious knots in our heads. I recalled myself having goosebumps at the epilogue part, of a truth only could be best described by Hannah “the dance of shadows on the surface of Kat’s brain“. A twisted truth coming out of a knotted situation, in which nobody could see how to undo things or where to fix, certainly not Kat. 

I had to tame myself reading as slow as possible. I know this is going to happen: me being startled by the ending and my emptiness after a good book being read well. I didn’t want to rush, because it was so easy to fall into the trap. If you let yourself suck in, you can’t stop, you will be urged to keep searching for answers behind those shadows. 

This novel’s story is amazingly haunted, and I am sure it will remain so for me in at least couple of more days. The cottage, the landscape, the place at the end remains the same but nobody is sure how much secrets it contains. Finally, there seems to be a reason why Lila kept feeling being watched.


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