In 1980, five friends about to graduate from college decide to get away together one last time. However, when it comes time to return from the idyllic college they visit, none of them are ready to go. They eventually come up with a plan to try roughing it off the grid at the cottage for the next year. Initially, the cottage feels like paradise, but as the weather gets worse, their situation deteriorates and personal tensions build. Thirty years later, when Lila mysteriously inherits the same cottage, she finds peace at the cottage during a difficult time in her marriage. However, she slowly begins to realize that something terrible happened to the previous inhabitants.
Reading The Shadow Year was a bit like watching a car crash in slow motion. I saw most of the big reveals coming and most of them were sad or horrifying, but somehow I still couldn’t stop turning pages as I waited to see how they would play out. Part of the reason this book was so engaging was because of the author’s superb descriptions. She described the cottage in rich detail and seeing the place from the perspective of both parallel stories added even more depth. I love dual narratives in general, but I think it’s particularly fun when people or places appear in both story lines like that so you can see how they change.
The characters were a high point of The Shadow Year. I didn’t have any trouble telling the two narrators apart and I thought every character in the story had a distinct personality. I also liked the contrasts between the two story lines, with one character’s life spiraling out of control and the other character pulling herself back together. As someone who doesn’t typically go for stories which end badly, I think having a happier storyline to balance out the more depressing one was crucial to my enjoyment of this story. I would definitely recommend this to fans of women’s fiction or of psychological thrillers, as well as anyone who likes a good dual narrative.This review first published on Doing Dewey.