Author – Amanda Jennings
Published – 2016
Genre – Fiction
I first came across Amanda Jennings at Crimefest a few years ago just before she announced a new deal with (then fledgling) publisher Orenda books. I duly received a review copy of In Her Wake and it has sat on my TBR for well over a year. It was one of those books that I was put off for two reasons – one was that it wasn’t an obviously ‘crime fiction’ book and the second was the overwhelming amount of positive reviews I saw the book receiving. It might seem odd to delay reading a book because of the second point but if a book is getting such a lot of coverage then my blog post won’t add anything to what’s already been said and the other reason is that often books with such overwhelming praise can be disappointing when your expectations have been raised.
We all imagined when were young that we were adopted or somehow came to be living with wrong family, what we picture as our ‘real’ family is a sort of idyll of family life. When both Bella’s parents die in quick succession she discovers that there is some truth to this feeling – her parents have deceived her for years and her seemingly perfect life is torn apart. Bella embarks on a journey (to Cornwall) to find out more about her real identity in what becomes a journey of self-discovery. What Bella finds isn’t what any young girl would dream up as their ‘real’ family. The aspects of a more female-centric book are balanced by the events that lead to Bella’s new life and the truth behind the events adds a more thrilling aspect as they are uncovered during the course of the book.
The author definitely has an eye for character, it was easy to empathise with Bella and the writing made the behaviour of other characters credible. Interestingly the one person whose point of view the reader never gets to understand is the person Bella thought of as her mother, the driving force behind the events in the book. As Bella learns more about her childhood she can see how it’s shaped her life and the decisions she’s made, whether for better or worse.
For me, and it’s not the first time I’ve criticised this aspect of a book, I wasn’t too keen on the more supernatural elements. Just me, just not a fan. But that aside this was a compelling book that mixed a character-driven story with a mystery. It was beautifully written and captured the emotional rollercoaster of Bella’s grief and discovery as she reevaluates everything she thought she knew.
Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy.