Monday, July 28, 2014

Book Review: The Way Back Home

By Becky Gulc

I’ve been an avid reader of Freya North’s books for a number of years now and very much enjoyed a talk given by Freya at York library a couple of years ago. In the busy world of reviewing I’d admittedly bought but not got round to reading Freya’s last two novels (Chances and Rumours), but I’d loved the last book of hers I did read, Secrets. I even visited some of the settings from this novel in Saltburn last year. So when I was approached to review Freya’s latest novel, The Way Back Home, I was delighted and couldn’t wait to prioritise reading another book by one of my favourite all time writers, and this time with my reviewing hat on. So what is all about?

One summer, something happened that changed everything forever…

Growing up in an artists’ commune in Derbyshire, Oriana Taylor has freedom at her fingertips in a house full of extraordinary characters. Her closest friends, brothers Malachy and Jed, share their childhood with her. There, in the rambling old house and tangled grounds, their dreams and desires take wing unchecked.

But too much freedom comes at a price. Something happens the summer they are fifteen. And now, having been gone nearly twenty years, Oriana is back.

This is their story. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK)

This book was everything I hoped it would be and more. I’ve read that Freya was inspired to write this story after visiting her friend’s apartment in a Georgian mansion, which was also a former artist’s commune. Windward, the house in this story was destined to be a leading character in the novel, and it really is such a fantastic place to set a story. With such rich description of the setting, I could vividly picture Windward back in the day with the various interesting characters living there, separate but amongst one another, and also in the present when much has changed in many respects, while in other respects nothing has changed at all.

I was intrigued from the very beginning of the novel, we learn something serious happens in Oriana’s life when she is 15, and we are cleverly given snippets of information at different points in time during Oriana’s childhood. This kept me intrigued as to what exactly what happened until we near the end of the novel when all is revealed. Yes I may have seen it coming as we got nearer the end, but that didn’t spoil it for me at all, it just raised more questions for Freya to answer for me on how relationships could ever be salvaged after the incident, thankfully my questions were answered.

There were three very strong characters in this novel. I cared about all three of them; Oriana, Jed and Malachy, all flawed, realistic, a bit lost. I loved the complex relationships between them all, with some things clearly left unresolved from twenty years ago. Mistakes were made, but who hasn’t made mistakes, especially when young? Again I enjoyed the slow reveal of the past, what exactly was Oriana’s relationship with each of the brothers? I enjoyed Oriana working through her current dilemmas when returning from the US after so long, and felt the emotion and regret along with her. I willed her to speak up about her true feelings once she acknowledges these herself, even if there are potential repercussions. I was on edge as to how things would end up for them all, and I was pleased with how everything was tied up.

I always love it when authors bring back characters from previous novels, and Freya brings back Cat and Django in this novel which I’m sure will delight fans. (I pictured Django very clearly as David Essex thanks to some Facebook chat quite a while ago now!)

If you haven’t yet read a book by Freya North what are you waiting for?

Thanks to HarperCollins UK for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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