Meet Hannah Richell – Author of Secrets of The Tides and The Shadow Year.

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So having read and loved both of Hannah’s books I caught up with her to ask a few questions. Here is what she had to tell me – followed by reviews of the novels.


The Shadow Year and Secrets of The Tides have similar themes but are very different books – Do you love exploring how the past can impact on the present?


When I was younger, I was never particularly interested in the past. I remember being dragged around historic houses and gardens, or taken to visit elderly and distant relatives, somewhat reluctantly. I found history lessons at school dull because I couldn’t see the point of looking backwards when it was the future that excited me.


As I’ve grown older and started my own family, however, I’ve come to develop a real appreciation for the past – for my family and our story. I now love visiting old houses and gardens, or those long chats with my grandmother over a cup of tea, or reading memoirs and history books. Not only are all these things full of inspiration and amazing stories, but I see now that it’s the people, places and artefacts from our past that help to explain who we are today.


So yes, I am interested in writing about how the past can reach out and not just speak to our present, but even alter a person’s future. I think a person’s or a family’s past is a rich and rewarding story.


I know this might be a  hard one – but do you have a favourite of the two?


This is hard, and not in the ‘choosing a favourite child’ kind of way, but simply because they were both such different books to write. Secrets of the Tides – my debut – was a long but amazing journey. It began as an experiment really, to see if I could write, and to explore what my style and subject would be, if I were to attempt a novel. I wrote it over two years, in private, snatched moments while working part time and looking after my baby. It was the book that secured me the dream of a two-book deal and all the excitement that comes with first-time publication.


The Shadow Year was very different. It was written with greater expectations and a rather pesky deadline. But it was exciting too. As soon as I’d had the idea of the cottage by the lake and the two storylines (two complete years) threaded together month by month, the plot came in a huge rush. I couldn’t write it fast enough.


Secrets of the Tides will always be special to me because it was my first novel and comes from a very personal place; but I think The Shadow Year is the better book. Secretly, I’m hoping my favourite is still to come… There, have I sat on the fence enough?


I loved Freya from “The Shadow Year”, was there a particular character from either novel that “spoke” to you above the others?


I probably feel closest to Dora, from Secrets of the Tides, because at the time of writing we were of similar ages and she was going through something I had just gone through – pregnancy and becoming a mother. I’ve also lived with her the longest in my head. I’ve noticed that I often don’t feel as though I really know or understand my characters until I’ve finished the first draft of a novel, but with William, from The Shadow Year, he was there right from the beginning, as clear as day. I really like William!


Can you tell us anything about your next project?


I can tell you that I’ve learned not to talk about the new project until it is nearly finished. I totally jinxed a book last year by opening up too early, over-sharing my enthusiasm for it and then, rather painfully, losing my way with the story. It now lives, half-finished, in a drawer in my desk. So the new one is underway, and I’m feeling excited about it, but I can’t say anything else just yet – it’s too soon and there is a whole mountain ahead of me to climb first.


Favourite place to read and/or write


I will read anywhere I can – bed, bus, café, park bench, bath – but my absolute favourite spots are either with my kids, reading bedtime stories at the end of the day, or curled-up next to my husband on the sofa. It it’s raining outside, all the better.


Writing I can and will do anywhere – even standing up in the kitchen while dinner cooks – but my preferred spot is a quiet room with a door that shuts!


Comfort reading author and/or book.


When I’m feeling blue or homesick, I often return to I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. It is so charming, so quintessentially English and it has such a wonderful setting and eccentric characters. It’s my perfect Sunday afternoon read.


Cocktail of choice.


To be perfectly honest, I’m more of a pint girl.


Quote that inspires you.


I have this quote scribbled out on a postcard and pinned up where I can see it from my desk. I find it immensely inspiring when thinking not just about my life, but also about my characters and the journeys they are on.


“The most terrible and beautiful and interesting things happen in a life. For some of you, those things have already happened. Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.”


This is a quote from The Future Has an Ancient Heart, an essay written by the author Cheryl Strayed in her book, Tiny, Beautiful Things. I’ve pressed this book into many hands in the last couple of years. Strayed has such a wise and generous heart.




Having read “The Shadow Year” which I loved very much (review just below!)  I was dying to read Ms Richell’s debut novel “Secrets of the Tides” as soon as possible, reading schedule be darned. And hey, it was a good call…

Every family has its secrets. Some are small, like telling a white lie or snooping through a private drawer. Others are more serious like infidelity and betrayal. And some secrets are so terrible they must be hidden away in a deep, dark place, for if they ever came to light, they would surely tear a family apart.

A family drama of the highest quality, Secrets of the Tides has an immediate opening hook – a young girl, desperate, throws herself into the Thames – but who she is and what has driven her to take this drastic action remains unknown.

Then we meet Dora, a woman on the cusp of the rest of her life, living with the man she loves and seemingly having it all – but she is haunted by events from her past and disconnected from her family. In order to secure her future happiness Dora must explore the roots of her distress and let go of the hurt – to do so she must return to that time and finally understand the truth.

Told from various points of view, in both the past and the present, Secrets of the Tides is a sprawling, fascinating look at family – those things that keep us together and those things that drive us apart. From the outside the Tides would appear pretty perfect – but inner turmoils, errors in judgement and tragedy mean they are anything but.

For me, Helen, Mother to Dora and Cassie, Wife to Richard, was  the most captivating of all the Tides. Perhaps because we are similar in age and experience – and yet she annoyed me because I spent much of the novel screaming at her to stop worrying about what she was lacking and for heavens sake LOOK at what she had. But we never do, do we. In realistic fashion Ms Richell shows us a slice of real life..with fulfillment always just around the corner, we always seem to want more…

The rest of the family are equally compelling. Cassie with her wish to escape, Dora who just wants to be happy and Richard, steady and reliable, will all touch you on some level – either because you know exactly how they are feeling or you want to whack them round the head and remove them from complacency…and that to me, is wonderful, evocative, clever writing. These people are about as real as you can get…

As we learn about their lives, where it all began, how the family grew and embedded itself into life, you will feel their joy and their pain..I was in tears at the end of this book. Again. So Yes Ms Richell – you DO owe me a box of tissues. A big one.


First of all thank you kindly to Hannah Richell and Orion for arranging a review copy of this book when I added it to my wishlist. I was very grateful as it had really caught my eye. And rightly so it turns out…


1980. Five friends, not quite ready to embark on life in the fast lane having finished University, come across an old cottage in the Peak District and decide to “drop out” for a year and live from the land in isolation. Looking forward to a relaxing carefree lifestyle, at first it is idyllic. But as the seasons change and reality sets in, tensions rise…..

Fast forward 30 years or so and Lila arrives at the cottage – with a renovation plan in place it seems like the perfect escape as she struggles to come to terms with a tragedy in her life..but little by little she begins to wonder about those that came before her as she discovers remnants of the past.

A haunting, evocative tale, this one touched my heart. A story very much about the relationships that drive us, and how the past can touch the future in a very real way I simply adored every part of this book. With each new discovery that Lila makes you are compelled to turn the pages to find out what they mean. With the story divided equally between both periods of time the story moves ever onwards…each month described bringing a new piece of the puzzle and a very real sense of something coming….

The characters are  realistic and absolutely fascinating in both periods of time. From the artful Simon to the beautiful and ethereal Freya each one will give you cause for some type of emotion. I both loved and detested Kat in equal measure and I fell in love with Mac absolutely.  In present time Lila is conflicted, by feelings and dark imaginings about what happened to her, she is  haunted yet determined. I found the relationship between her and her mother one of the most intriguing aspects of the novel..beautifully written and extremely complicated it was a terrific thing to read.

The mystery element is also very well imagined. In a way for me it wasnt even about that – Yes I wanted to know the outcome but it was all in the journey…the intricate relationships between the characters, ever shifting but always bewitching, drive you ever onwards  to find out what will happen. To them. To Lila. To the future…

I have now purchased Hannah Richell’s previous novel, Secrets of the Tides and can hardly wait to read it – it sounds equally compelling…but in the meantime pick up a copy of “The Shadow Year”. You won’t regret it.

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Happy Reading Folks!


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