A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.
But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity – that she, in fact, is Lydia – their world comes crashing down once again.
As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past – what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?
Received from HarperCollins in exchange for a review.
This book is written from the points of view of both Angus and Sarah – mainly Sarah – and when the book starts we find the two of them in London a year after one of their daughters has died in a freakish accident. Neither of them have really come to terms with it or have dealt with the fallout particularly well. Angus has lost his job due to his drinking (and punching his boss), and Sarah’s part time work does little to contribute to the bills. Angus inherits a cottage on a distant Scottish island (Thunder Island/Torran), where he spent many a summer when he was younger. The cottage is in a state of disrepair, having not being lived in or maintained for a few years, and despite it coming into winter, Angus, Sarah and Kirstie decide to move. It is during the planning of this that Kirstie drops a bombshell – she’s not Kirstie, she’s Lydia. They got it wrong.
Because the twins were identical (and not mirror images of each other) there is no real way of telling which girl actually died. It is down to the personality of the remaining child to show who died and who didn’t – and “Kirsty” is becoming more and more like Lydia.
They move to Torran, and find the island is isolated from the mainland via a causeway, that means that depending on the tide there is several hours a day where they are completely cut off. The house is in disrepair – damaged through squatters as well as general lack of maintenance on an island subject to adverse weather. The house is of course used as an analogy for the marriage, initially getting better and almost liveable (despite the lack of heating and an abundance of rats) but there comes a point that no matter how much they cover up the cracks, the cracks are still there.
Angus continues to drink, Sarah tries to get her daughter (almost exclusively called “Lydia” now) to settle into a new school, but it soon becomes apparent that she is being ostracised by the other children, who fear her as much as anything. Lydia’s behaviour is also erratic, maintaining that Kirstie still comes to visit and the two of them are still playing and talking.
Due to the isolation of the island, there is virtually no mobile signal and the land line is dubious at best, so there’s another way that Sarah is feeling isolated, especially when Angus gets freelance work on the mainland and he spends several days a week away. Sarah hasn’t made friends with the other school mothers and the lack of phone signal makes it difficult for her to maintain the friendship with her London friend – especially when she finds out that Isobel and Angus have had a one-night stand a few months after the accident.
With everything that is going on, Sarah’s animosity towards Angus develops quickly to the point where she demands a divorce and she levels some accusations towards Angus. This makes Angus retaliate and forces him to reveal something he’d hoped he’d never have to – the accident and the following months are not like Sarah remembers, and Sarah is not as lily white in the whole situation as she seems to believe. The first big storm of the winter brings everything to a head as the storm rages outside…..
The premise was good, execution was decent, but I was not entirely convinced about Sarah’s condition (though a very brief lookup indicates that it’s a known issue so that’ll teach me). The external force of nature was a decent reflection to the inner turmoil of the marriage and the deteriation of Sarah’s health.
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