Secrets, tragedy, betrayal and a lakeside cottage… The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell

the shadow yearThe Book:

On a sultry summer’s day in 1980, five friends stumble upon an abandoned lakeside cottage hidden deep in the English countryside. For Kat and her friends, it offers an escape; a chance to drop out for a while, with lazy summer days by the lake and intimate winter evenings around the fire. But as the seasons change, tensions begin to rise and when an unexpected visitor appears at their door, nothing will be the same again.

Three decades later, Lila arrives at the same remote cottage. With her marriage in crisis, she finds solace in renovating the tumbledown house. Little by little she wonders about the previous inhabitants. How did they manage in such isolation? Why did they leave in such a hurry, with their belongings still strewn about? Most disturbing of all, why can t she shake the feeling that someone might be watching her?

The Shadow Year is a story of secrets, tragedy, lies and betrayal. It’s a tale that explores the light and dark of human relationships and the potential the past has to not only touch our present, but also to alter our future

The Author:

Hannah Richell was born in Kent, England and spent her childhood years in Buckinghamshire and Canada. After graduating from the University of Nottingham in 1998 she worked in book publishing and film. Hannah began to write in early 2008 while she was on maternity leave, and the result was her first novel, Secrets of the Tides, which was shortlisted for the Australian Independent Bookseller Best Debut Fiction Award, ABIA General Fiction Book of the Year (2013) and ABIA Newcomer of the Year (2013). Her second novel The Shadow Year, published in 2013 .She now lives in Sydney with her husband, their two young children and a black-and-white cat called Lennie and returns to the UK as often as possible to spend time with family and savour the green grass of home.

The Good Stuff:

Told from the alternating perspectives of modern-day Lila and Kat thirty years ago, the story unfolds at a good clip. It took me a few chapters to really become vested in the story (I’ll totally blame that on real life, not the book though) but once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. From the prologue, we know something bad is going to happen to someone, but who? Would Lila get back with her husband—and did I even want her to?  Would the peaceful 1980’s dropouts find the commune-like tranquility they longed for or would their de facto leader, Simon, turn it into some cultish situation?

The cottage, which sits beside a peaceful lake in the hills of the Peak District (England), seems the perfect escape when the 1980 group arrives during tha sultry summer, but the harshness of a damp winter soon set in, giving the setting depth and reflecting the characters emotions.

The Recommendation:

This isn’t one of those quaint novels about a woman redecorating a cozy lakeside cottage while she fixes up her life. (Although I do enjoy those stories, too!) This is fraught with unease–it opens with a possible drowning then flashes to a woman still grieving the death of her preterm infant. The flawed characters, moral ambiguity, and intriguing blend of drama and mystery will keep you guessing how all the stories fit together until the end.


she reads new

The Shadow Year is the May She Reads Book Club selection. And guess what? They’re giving away copies to FIVE lucky readers (ends May 30th). Drop by to find out more about Hannah Richell and The Shadow Year, check out other fabulous reviews, and enter to WIN.

Read an excerpt of THE SHADOW YEAR here.

The Details:

Connect with Hannah:

Website | Twitter | Facebook


I received this book free from Central Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Links above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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