Fifteen years ago, Rachel fell in love. As a teenager on a sun-kissed island, she fell in love with the nightlife, working at a bar by the sea, living in paradise… and with Alistair. He was a handsome, charismatic man 20 years her senior who made her feel things she can’t explain, and still to this day lives in her mind – even now she’s 20 years older and married, with a life of her own.
But she still finds herself drawn to that island, and here once again she finds herself reaching out to the people she met that summer and revisiting the people they were back then. But the more she rediscovers her old self, the more she discovers about Alistair and she starts to question if that passionate love affair she’s held onto all these years was even real or if something much darker was going on that she didn’t even realise …
“They feel like parts of the same puzzle, lines from the same song, chapters of the same story. Fragmented things that I had never thought to put together before feeling suddenly sharp and solidified.”
This is an electrifying debut that makes a blinding statement about what it really means to reclaim and reframe your story when you didn’t even know it yourself. Bishop dives into the complex issues of past traumas, and how we can often excuse, forget, change or reason with it because we’re not ready to accept it.
Bishop gracefully and respectfully explores the areas of consent and coercion that aren’t always so obvious. She addresses the power dynamics, the charming and convincing abusers, the disbelief from society, and of course, the way our memories can fail in an effort to survive.
Rachel is an endearing and relatable narrator. She’s troubled and doesn’t always make good choices, but I found a deep connection and understanding with her in both her 17- and 34-year-old self. Now an adult, she felt stuck, like a passenger in her own life. I felt her cry of ‘is this it?’ deep in my soul. And in her younger self, I saw myself as a teenager and wished I could talk to her, let her know the faces of abuse aren’t always scary on the outside.
The setting is clear from the first few lines, transporting us to a sweet, sweaty summer full of youthful excitement. Then that same heat is now stifling and unbearable. Time moves fluidly between that fateful summer and the modern day, subtle parallels giving me an uneasy sense of Deja-vu. Despite the beautiful backdrop, it’s clear that there’s a dark cloud over that island and we’re left waiting to see just how deep that darkness goes.
The story felt like looking into a warped mirror – it wasn’t an exact copy, but it reflected my own rage, frustration and fears back at me.
It invoked a deep sense of sisterhood not only with the characters, but anyone else who looks at this story to find their own past staring back at them. This book is a moment of catharsis and healing that I am so grateful to Katie for sharing with me.
This is a fiercely feminist triumph of a novel from a new voice that demands to be heard.
*Originally published at bethanys-bookshelf.blogspot.com – please note this review is based on a UK advanced reviewers copy.*
Photo by Alexandra Fuller on Unsplash
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