I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Dark Water by Sara Bailey
Published by Nightingale Editions on 3rd October 2016
When Helena returns to her childhood home in Orkney to care for her father after a heart attack, she is forced to face memories that she has spent half a lifetime running from. Still haunted by the disappearance of her blood-sister, Anastasia – who vanished during a daredevil swimming incident - Helena must carefully navigate the island that made her, and the old faces that still ask: what really happened that night by the wrecks?
I’m so excited to be a stop on the Dark Water blog tour today! I’ve had the pleasure of reading this novel and it’s a beauty! As I write this the wind is battering the windows and the rain is almost horizontal and I can’t help but feel this is the perfect atmosphere in which to sit down and read Dark Water.
At her father’s behest Helena returns to Orkney to visit. She hasn’t been back there for ten years, not since Anastasia. But her father’s had a heart attack; he needs her. So she leaves her luxurious London life for her childhood home of Orkney.
Upon her return she finally has to face her past, see all those folk she hasn’t spoken to for ten years, and deal with her stepmother, Kate.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. As an islander myself I could relate to much of the story – identifying someone with an umbrella as clearly not an islander made me chuckle. It’s a story shrouded in mystery, a slow, meandering tale that, I think, reflects island life.
Most of the story is told through Helena and we traverse time from the present day back to her teenage years. This is how we uncover the story of Helena’s life: the tale of her teenage years, friends, boyfriends, and her return to the island. We see her meeting those faces from the past, one of whom is Dylan, her teenage boyfriend. There are occasional passages written as Dylan, as well as other sections from the point of view of Helena’s stepmother, Kate. Personally, I really enjoyed this narrative style. Bailey absolutely captures and conveys the life of an island teenager -the dramas, the inability to keep anything secret, and that question about the future – to leave the island for college / university or stay with everyone you know and love.
Likewise, Bailey captures that feeling of visiting home when you’ve been away for a while. I had to laugh when Helena saw kids that she felt she knew, turning out to be children of her childhood peers. This is so true; it happens to me all the time!
As for the writing itself, it’s hard to believe that this is a debut novel. Bailey’s writing beautifully sets the island scene. Her writing is very readable and totally immersive.
If you’re looking for a fast paced novel, then this isn’t one for you. If however you want a story full of emotion, of teenage angst, the challenges of adulthood, of tragedy, heartache, parental relationships, loss and friendship then I definitely recommend this stunning debut novel. I’ve never been to Orkney but I felt I could see it through Bailey’s writing.
All in all, this a great novel to curl up with on an autumnal evening. It’ll draw you in from the outset and you won’t be able to put it down.