In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings is so beautifully written, so painfully observed, it hurts.
“I dreamt vividly the night she died. I,ve had this dream before. In it I am running. Always running. My heart thumps in my ears. My breath comes in short, painful gasps. It is dark and cold and the trees reach out to grab at me, as if they are alive, as if they are trying to capture me with their long,twiggy fingers. Their roots are thick and hidden and I trip repeatedly. I think my feet must hurt. I look down to see that I am wearing only one slipper.
When did I lose the other?”
That line, “When did I lose the other?”, that did it for me, picked me up and hurled me into the dark, melancholic world of Bella.
Bella is the daughter of Elaine and Henry Campbell, but Elaine has just died and this act of death is both a resurrection and a descent into a horror that Bella can only begin to suspect.
Bella is married to David, I don’t like David, I want to sneer when I use his name, but I won’t. You can make your own mind up about David.
As Bella attempts to accept the death of Elaine, her sense of isolation and confusion grows as another tragedy envelops her. Bella is besieged by grief and anguish, her very need for survival and understanding is palpable on every page. Her only chance of relief is to escape,she knows not why, and escape she does, to Cornwall, to find herself and the answers she seeks.
As we are drawn into Henry’s recollection of the past, we discover clues to this pain and sense of isolation and fear, and so slowly, creeping, like the tendrils of the trees roots mentioned in the epilogue, we begin to understand Bella’s world and how real her fears may be.
At times I felt ‘In Her Wake’ had an air of the Victorian gothic about it, other-worldly and cold, as this fades we are drawn to Cornwall, to the beauty and warmth of both the people and the coastline, of myths and mermaids, and longed for love intertwined with Bella’s restoration of self.
I wept and raged and cried, and loved her, and so wanted her to be happy and well and whole.
I still think about this book, a lot, and have been attempting to finish this review for weeks, but wanted to capture the emotional journey I travelled along with Bella, and to hopefully encourage others to read this book.
Buy this book for people you love, for people who are becoming, for people who need to trust themselves. Most of all, fall into this book, it is a wonderful journey.
My very great thanks to not only Amanda for writing such an epic story that still gives me chills, and a character I will never forget. To the ever effervescent Karen from @OrendaBooks who published this book and has introduced me to some wonderful new authors, who will now become part of my library forever.