Sonia lives on the edge of the river Thames in Greenwich. Her husband works away and her daughter has flown the nest. When fifteen year old Jez, a nephew of one of her few friends, comes round to borrow a CD, she feels an overwhelming urge to keep him safe. She gets him drunk and convinces him to sleep it off but the next day she does not let him leave. She starts making up excuses for him to stay and soon Jez finds he cannot leave.
It’s an uncomfortable read. The narrative is told in first person, split between Sonia and her friend, Helen. For some reason it seems easier to relate to a criminal that knows they are doing something wrong. Sonia obviously has become a bit unhinged but she also comes across as naïve, not really realising the consequences of what she’s doing. At the start, the loss of a loved one is hinted at and in flashbacks we learn of an unhealthy relationship she had as a teenager herself. At times she mistakes Jez for someone else and occasionally her actions towards him seem completely at odds with her need to “keep him safe”.
Whilst most the book is devoted to Sonia, Helen comes across as selfish and not particularly believable. Even if you do not like your sister, surely you would be worried when your nephew goes missing? Alcoholism is to blame but her drinking doesn’t come across as extreme in the text. Perhaps the fault of first person narration, Sonia is too wrapped up in Jez to comment and Helen is in denial.
Do not get me wrong, Tideline is not badly written but the sense of unease I had towards Sonia’s actions put me off a bit. It’s not a gripping “oh my god they’re going to die” type unease but just that what she is doing is wrong and she can’t see that. It did put me in mind of Stephen King’s Misery at times. It is Penny Hancock’s first novel and I would certainly read more from her in the future if the subject matter were different enough.
I did enjoy the setting on the banks of the Thames. It is something Sonia is fond of, refusing to sell the house as she can’t bear to part with the river. It holds memories of a past best forgotten and I think her family sees that. There is the contrast of the beauty that Sonia sees with the reality of its grime and danger.
Tideline is published by Simon & Schuster in the UK and is currently available in hardback and ebook editions (paperback due out 19th July 2012). Thanks go to the publisher for sending me a copy to review.
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