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Book Review: In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings

In Her Wake is the recently published novel from Amanda Jennings, released a little earlier this year by the friendly folks over at Orenda Books, and it has been collecting glowing reviews – all of which I have tried to avoid – for weeks on end. Now, having dipped into the book myself, it’s clear to me why. I was around three pages in to this read, in fact, when I turned to my friend next to me and said: ‘Bloody hell, this is going to be a good one.’

The novel follows the story of Bella. A young woman who returns to her family home following the unexpected death of her mother, only to be greeted by a father who is so overcome with guilt and anxiety – perhaps what you’d expect following the loss of a spouse, but certainly not how you’d expect it – that their already strained relationship only worsens in the opening chapters of this book. When Bella’s father, Henry, finally reveals what he’d been holding in for so long, Bella’s world promptly falls apart – and the reader’s heart promptly drops.

From here we move with Bella down to the coast of England where she sets about discovering herself – her real self, as it turns out – and we as readers all too willingly move through that journey with her. Although, with prose this polished, how could we not?

Jennings’ writing is simply stunning throughout this whole release. Even the most seemingly mundane elements are described beautifully and, about four chapters in, it became one of those books that made me say: ‘Oh my gosh, listen to this line...’ to whoever was sitting next to me.

The descriptions are weaved perfectly throughout a convincing first person narrative that establishes the key elements of Bella’s personality from the off, allowing her to instantly be a character that readers can attach themselves to. Although, that being said, the first person allows a wonderful perspective on the other characters as well, namely Elaine and Henry, Bella’s parents (although the occasional dips into third person work wonders for these pair as well, particularly with the dual narrative of their life together before Bella). Oh and David! Arrogant, abrasive, controlling David who runs Bella’s life if only she knew it; David, Bella’s husband, is a wonderfully put together character who is just so damn easy to dislike.

The plot? Well, the plot is something that you’ll have to discover for yourselves; so intricate are the turns that I would need a literary road map to talk you through them – and it would only ruin the punch for you. This is a story best told by Jennings and she does so with a skill and a talent that left me a little breathless, and a little eager to escape to the Cornish coast for the weekend.

A beautifully crafted book, In Her Wake is definitely worth adding to your reading pile.

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