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The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell

There’s always certain appeal to a back-to-basics existence, especially with the stresses of modern-day living.

Removed from the fast pace of life, with the ability to focus purely on survival, implies an element of freedom and natural happiness – but is this really true?

When five teenage college graduates stumble upon a derelict cottage by a dark, yet captivating lake, they begin to question what is important in life.

They ask whether they’ve been brainwashed into following a path just because it’s the norm. They begin to ask “what ifs”. What if they could live off the land? What if they didn’t need to go and get jobs? What if all they had been taught was wrong? Deciding to buck the status quo, they agree to try and survive using their natural habitat.

Just as William Golding exposed the darkest sides of human nature in Lord of the Flies, as languid summer days stretch into the chill of winter the cottage’s inhabitants begin to reveal their primal natures. When an unexpected visitor joins them, secrets, power games and sexual tensions erupt. As food becomes scarce and their emotions raw, a shocking incident takes place and lives will never be the same again.

Decades later, Lila arrives at the same derelict cottage. Dealing with the grief of losing her baby and with her marriage in tatters, she decides that her new project is to renovate the house.

Pouring her heart and soul into the plans, she soon begins to wonder about the cottage’s previous inhabitants and their belongings that are still scattered around the house, as if one day they’d simply just disappeared.

The Shadow Year is a sublime novel that is at once moving, confronting and compelling. Exquisitely written, its impact lasts far longer than the final page. Highly recommended.

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