The House Between Tides
This début novel features a time-slip plot moving back and forth between events in 1910 and 2010 on a remote island in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. The descriptions of the setting are vivid and evoke an almost gothic feel. While much of the language is beautiful, the descriptive passages overwhelm the characters and plot, and left me wanting more action, more dialog, and less descriptive text.
The action in 2010 centers around Hetty Deveraux’s inheritance of Muirlan House, located on Muirlan Island. Hetty has never been to the island, and the bequest offers a way to connect with her past. Giles – the man she’s currently involved with – has grand plans for developing the island for tourism. Rather than telling Giles to back off, Hetty heads there to see the house. Once there, she discovers it is in horrible condition. She also encounters James Cameron, who tells her there’s a body buried in the house, leading to speculation that one of Hetty’s ancestors is buried there, or buried someone there.
Hetty learns that at the time the body was buried, the most recent residents of the house were artist Theo Blake and his new wife Beatrice. She also learns that Beatrice disappeared and never returned, and Theo became a recluse in his later years.
The action in 1910 focuses on Theo and Beatrice. Theo’s ancestors built the huge house on the island, taking over property long used by the Island’s residents. From the moment of their arrival, it’s clear there are problems between Theo and many of the residents, including his unwilling assistant Cameron. It’s also apparent Theo is a troubled man.
There are parallels between Hetty’s and Beatrice’s experiences, despite the time difference. They’re both in relationships with domineering men. They both attempt to become more independent, although Beatrice seems to take steps more quickly than Hetty. Hetty is weak and accepting of Giles’ actions for too long. They’re both connected to men who want to do things against the islanders’ wishes, and both women begin to side with the locals over their men, and in particular to side with men (James in Hetty’s case and Cameron in Beatrice’s) who want to preserve and protect the island.
I liked how we learned more about Theo and Beatrice through Hetty’s research. There were some disquieting passages midway through the book where Hetty’s research reveals how many of the 1910 characters died, making it slightly unsettling to slip back into the earlier sequences, because by then I knew what happens to them.
For most of the book I found Beatrice and Theo’s sections less compelling and overwhelmed by lengthy descriptive passages. Admittedly, the descriptions are vivid: I can see the island in my mind and know what Theo’s paintings looked like. I just needed fewer distractions from the actual plot. The last twenty percent of their story was quite good, moved more quickly, and was often heartbreaking; I wish the rest of the book had been similar.
Have you ever felt you should like a book more than you do? That’s what happened to me here. There’s nothing truly bad about The House Between Tides, but I found it easy to put down, with many trivial incidents going on too long. None of the characters truly grabbed me, and they are all overshadowed by the setting, which, while enjoyably vivid, is not is not enough for me to recommend the book as a whole.
My first memory is sitting with my mother on a blanket in our backyard surrounded by books and she is reading one of them to me. My love of reading was encouraged by my parents and it continues to today. I’ve gone through a lot of different genres over the years, but I currently primarily read mysteries (historical mysteries are my favorites) and romances (focusing on contemporaries, categories, and steampunk). When I’m not reading or working, I love to travel, knit, and work on various community projects.