In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings

In Her Wake is a simply stunning book and I’m confident that it will be up there as one of my top reads of 2016. It tells the story of Bella, a university librarian in her late twenties married to much the much older David. We meet her as she returns to her childhood home following the death of her mother Elaine. It is clear that Bella’s upbringing has been less than conventional with her mother home-schooling her, never letting her out to play or make friends and always having all the curtains closed. Her relationship with her father Henry has always been rather strained and with her mother’s funeral looming, he seems to be trying but unable to tell her something important. Shocking revelations soon follow and Bella finds that her world has been turned upside down and that everything she thought she knew about her life could be completely wrong.

I truly felt that I was going through all the emotions and experiences along with Bella as I read In Her Wake. Although she didn’t seem to realise it, she had swapped one controlling relationship with her mother for another, with her husband David. When the security she thought she had was stripped away, I could totally understand her sense of bewilderment and betrayal. She tries to come to terms with this new version of the truth and wonders how she missed the signs. Amanda Jennings wrote so beautifully about Bella’s thoughts as she began to create and accept this new version of herself. Her language was so atmospheric, that I felt was right there experiencing all the conflicting emotions with Bella. 

The parts of the book which took place in Cornwall were impressive as Bella learns more about her past and begins to form new relationships which will shape her future. Amanda Jennings’ writing about the sea, whether calm or stormy, and the rugged coastline of the Cornwall was evocative and powerful. Like Bella, I could sense the breathtaking beauty of her surroundings.

I would like to be able to tell you more about the other characters in the book who Bella came to know while in Cornwall but I can’t, as it would give away too much of the storyline. It will have to suffice to say that Bella comes to know and form relationships with these new people and that the author writes about this so sensitively and insightfully. The effects of secrets on relationships past and present are movingly depicted. There is revelation after revelation throughout the book and like Bella, I was taken by surprise, even shocked, as the whole story is eventually revealed. I think it says a lot for Amanda Jennings’ writing that even with the characters who you initially think are appalling, you may in the end find you have a little sympathy and understanding for them.  

In Her Wake is such an amazing book, with its author skilfully weaving together themes of grief, identity, belonging and hope. It is a captivating and beautifully written book and I simply loved it.

My huge thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for sending me a copy of the book to review. In Her Wake was published on March 22nd in paperback and ebook format and you can order a copy here: In Her Wake

From the back of the book

A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella’s comfortable existence. Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but her life.Chilling, complex and profoundly moving, In Her Wake is a gripping psychological thriller that questions the nature of family – and reminds us that sometimes the most shocking crimes are committed closest to home.


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