From the publisher:
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.
This novel is a perfect example of why I still love blogging and receiving review copies. I would never have heard of this book if not for She Reads, and I found it so engrossing and compelling that I flew through this 400+ page book in a day.
Before I go much further, I must be honest and say that I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads for a very specific reason, and that’s because I really didn’t care for Lila. There are two stories in The Shadow Year, and I looooved the story set in the 1980’s with the friends at the cottage, but I truly could not connect with Lila and honestly kind of dreaded reading her portions of the book. Happily, the sections of the book detailing the past were much longer and more of the story, but still. Had I loved Lila and her story as much as the other story, this would have been a perfect, 5-star read for me.
Now that’s out of the way, let me talk about what I did love. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book quite like this – basically, the premise is that this group of friends decide to leave the world for a year and live off the land in this abandoned cottage they found in the countryside. Kat is our main character, and she’s in love with Simon, who is really the leader of the group, although they are not a couple. Ben and Carla are a couple, and Mac rounds out their group, a guy who everyone likes but is sort of a loner, and he’s the one guy who is easily able to live off the land and make sure they survive the difficult winter. The relationship dynamics are, while somewhat predictable, very compelling and I couldn’t stop turning the pages, anxious to see how these five very different people would find a way to make this year work for them. Halfway through the year, Kat’s younger sister shows up and it’s at that point where everything sort of goes crazy. Secrets are revealed, bad things happen, and these friendships are REALLY tested.
Once I figured out that Kat’s story is connected in some way to Lila’s, I began to take somewhat of an interest in Lila and the book really came together for me at the end. While the connection is kind of obvious, there are still some really shocking events towards the end of the book that had me gasping. This book, for me, had everything – great characters, secrets and lies, twists and turns, relationship drama – and I really, really enjoyed it. The novel reminded me a tiny bit of The Secret History just because of the tight-knit group of friends and this huge thing they are doing as a group.
The Shadow Year was pure entertainment for me and I highly recommend it!