Book Review: The House Between Tides

Author: Sarah Maine
ISBN: 978-1-76029-140-2
RRP: $29.99

The House Between Tides is a gripping, suspenseful and atmospheric debut that will stand the test of time and make Maine an author to watch out for as her career progresses.

It took me a while to really get caught up in The House Between Tides because I have had quite a big and busy week with stress about how badly I’d broken the computer so I wasn’t in the right headspace for a book that required concentration, and this one certainly does. We have multiple timelines, multiple narrators and a need to keep all of this info in order.

In 2010 Hetty Deveraux inherits the home of her ancestors, a well known house that has been shut up since the death of renowned painter Theo Blake in 1945. The house has been shut up for so long that it is falling into ruin but Hetty, along with her partner Giles and his business associates, have plans for how they can bring the house, and it’s island, back to the centre of attention.

Hetty has plans to renovate but isn’t aware of just what Giles and his business associates have in mind. Giles is an arrogant and pushy man that I had no time for at all, he screamed slimeball to me and was extremely self centred. Hetty’s plans are quite modest compared to the complete overhaul of the entire island planned by Giles and co.

Life gets overwhelming for Hetty and she needs to escape her London life for a while, find some perspective. She takes off to the island, telling no-one, to check out the place for herself. Her first visit to the house is unaccompanied, and without keys, so she finds an easy way in and gets caught trespassing by the man employed (by Giles’ associates) to create a report on the state of the house.

James Cameron was on the island checking the condition of the house earlier that day and uncovered a long buried secret. A secret that could change everything.

A middle-aged Theo Blake returns to the island in 1910 with his young bride Beatrice, they are going to summer on the island and hopefully Theo will be inspired to begin painting again.

The story is told by these four characters – Theo, Beatrice, James and Hetty in 1910 and 2010. There is also a large cast of secondary characters.

The story in 1910 unfolds story to bring us to a point where we can unravel the secret, there is much speculation but no concrete evidence. There were a couple of suspenseful storylines woven through the 1910 storyline, there were conclusions I jumped to very early that seemed to be drawn out so far I wasn’t sure they would ever be resolved. At times I found it frustrating because I just wanted to have my suspicions validated but I also enjoyed the slow unraveling that had me questioning what was going on at every turn rather than having the facts.

This is a timeline that brings Hetty’s ancestors into focus and allows us to get to know them. It gives us a look into the life of reclusive artist Blake.

the house between tides

There is no shortage of drama in the 2010 storyline either. Many of the locals are less than thrilled with the idea of the house being renovated for a hotel, not to mention all of the other outlandish plans concocted by the runaway development train. We are left wondering if Hetty has the courage, or the ability, to stand up to Giles and co. Every time she tries to speak up for what she wants the development team just talk over her and carry on like what they want is what will happen.

Muirlan House and surrounds is a small community and most of the residents belong to families who have been in the area for generations. Their ancestors lived here and the island community has a long memory, not all of them want to see the house resurrected.

The House between The Tides was an engrossing read, though one requiring concentration. There is lots going on and Maine’s style of writing brings the house and the island to life. The local birdlife was also very important to the narrative and added an environmental aspect to the story.

Maine has tackled a complex and involved debut with insight and an eerie sense of mystery. The century old secret is a massive mystery but it is only one of many that will capture your imagination.

The House Between the Tides is available now through Allen & Unwin and from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Sarah Maine can be followed on her Website and Facebook.

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