The beautiful city of Venice has been Lydia’s home for many years, a place where she has found peace and fulfilment. Then one day she glimpses a young man’s face in the crowd that threatens to change everything. He’s a heart-stopping reminder of a dreadful secret she believed she had banished to the past …As a young child, Lydia and her sister were sent to live with grandparents they’d never even met before. It was a cruel and loveless new world for them and it forced Lydia to grow up fast. She learned to keep secrets and to trust sparingly, and through it all she was shadowed by grief and guilt. Now, twenty-eight years later, Lydia is persuaded to leave behind the safe new life she has created for herself and return to England to face the past. And maybe her future.
Lydia and Noah’s relationship as children is quite simply, beautiful to read. Right from meeting at 9 years old as new pupils and outcasts at school, I found the bond between them to be just magical. Both children have been deeply disturbed, but in each other find solace and a soul mate. Set in the 1970’s, Erica James really does bring the era back to life with her descriptions and I found it easy to just slip right inside this story. As Lydia and Noah grow, so does their relationship. Their first tentative steps towards each other is so touchingly well written, it actually brought tears to my eyes. Always throughout the book I was rooting for both of them, who are equally well-written, strong and complex characters.
At times the book is a little upsetting, as abuse and neglect is tackled within the pages. Religion, or extreme religion, is also tackled. Lydia’s Grandparents, who are taking care of her, are members of a cult like church, and this adds a sinister undercurrent to the story. As well as the fantastically believable Lydia and Noah, the book is also littered with deep, solid and realistic characters who range from wonderful in their simplicity to chilling in their evil, twisted and dark nature. When I began this book, I wasn’t really expecting a mystery or thriller, but the author manages to craftily set the scene and then spring a mystery upon the reader, which kept me guessing till the outcome was revealed.
If I had one criticism of the book, it would be at almost 500 pages, it seemed a little too long. For the vast majority of the book it is fast paced and engaging, the pages just turning themselves. However, toward the end of the book I felt it went beyond it’s natural conclusion and included an unnecessary new storyline. I think to make it absolutely perfect, 50 pages could have been cut from the book. I wouldn’t say this ruined the book for me, however I definitely found the pace changed and became keen to have everything wrapped up.
Other than that small niggle, the book was almost perfect for me. I would say that this book falls into the woman’s fiction category, however I think that it would appeal to a wider audience than this. It’s a coming of age book, sinister and chilling, a love story, with a bit of a mystery thrown in to boot. I’m not convinced the rather wishy-washy cover does it any justice, and the book may be passed over as being fluffier than it actually is.