About the Book
She fancied herself part of a timeless chain without beginning or end, linked only by the silver strong words of its tellers.
In the year 1841, on the eve of her departure from London, Bridie’s mother demands she forget her dead father and prepare for a sensible, adult life in Port Phillip. Desperate to save her childhood, fifteen-year-old Bridie is determined to smuggle a notebook filled with her father’s fairytales to the far side of the world.
When Rhys Bevan, a soft-voiced young storyteller and fellow traveller realises Bridie is hiding something, a magical friendship is born. But Rhys has his own secrets and the words written in Bridie’s notebook carry a dark double meaning. As they inch towards their destination, Rhys’s past returns to haunt him. Bridie grapples with the implications of her dad’s final message. The pair take refuge in fairytales, little expecting the trouble it will cause.
Format: Paperback, ebook (300 pp.) Publisher: Odyssey Books
Published: 20th October 2017 Genre: Historical Fiction, YA
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The author conveys in convincing detail the terrible conditions endured by those, like Bridie and her mother and stepfather, travelling in steerage: the heat below deck, the cramped accommodation, lack of privacy and risk of disease. Not to mention the terrible seasickness caused by the motion of the ship. There are particularly vivid descriptions of the terror experienced by the passengers as the ship rides out storms on the voyage, not least those in steerage where the order ‘batten down the hatches’ means them literally being sealed below decks.
For Bridie, the storytelling sessions she shares with Rhys and his wife, Sian, provide a welcome distraction from the privations of the voyage, her continuing grief at the death of her father and her difficult relationship with her mother’s new husband, Alf, that cause her to misunderstand and reject his attempts to guide her and prepare her for their new life in Australia. In addition, Bridie must come to terms with the signs that she is moving from childhood to being of marriageable age.
The emigrants undertaking the long and arduous voyage to Australia are doing so in the hope that a new and better life with more opportunities awaits them. But some, including Rhys and Sian, are also keen to leave behind the past and avoid discovery of secrets they wish to keep hidden. However, from time to time there are precious snatched moments of conviviality as the passengers come together to sing songs and listen to stories, especially those performed by Rhys and Sian.
Tragedy awaits many of those who undertake the voyage and even when they arrive at their destination it’s clear more challenges await them. The open-ended nature of the book’s conclusion means the reader can indulge their own imagination about Bridie’s future… or possibly await a sequel?
The Tides Between is an absorbing, skilfully crafted coming-of-age story that takes the reader – like Bridie and her fellow passengers – on an often turbulent and emotional journey.
I received a review copy courtesy of the author. Find out more about Elizabeth’s writing journey and the inspiration for the book in her Q&A with bookblogger, Linda Hill.
In three words: Emotional, dramatic, immersive
Try something similar: Fled by Meg Keneally (read my review here)
About the Author
When Elizabeth Jane Corbett isn’t writing, she works as a librarian, teaches Welsh at the Melbourne Celtic Club, writes reviews and articles for the Historical Novel Society and blogs at elizabethjanecorbett.com.
In 2009, her short-story, ‘Beyond the Blackout Curtain’, won the Bristol Short Story Prize. Another, ‘Silent Night’, was short listed for the Allan Marshall Short Story Award. An early draft of her debut novel, The Tides Between, was shortlisted for a HarperCollins Varuna manuscript development award.
Elizabeth lives with her husband, Andrew, in a renovated timber cottage in Melbourne’s inner-north. She likes red shoes, dark chocolate, commuter cycling, and reading quirky, character driven novels set once-upon-a-time in lands far, far away.
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