It is impossible for me to review this book without seeming fulsome and gushing, without falling back on clichés: yes, it is amazing, fascinating, thought-provoking, gripping, and I couldn’t put it down. In fact I read it in one afternoon, oblivious of the pouring rain and the raging river at the bottom of the garden. But I must try.
In the prologue a half-drowned girl is found on the shore by a strange man who believes she has been "sent" to him, and he brings her back from near-death. Cut now to what happened before. The family, consisting of mother and father, Max and Clara, and two daughters, Eva and Faith, live by the sea in Suffolk. Father and Eva are mad on sailing. On a stormy day their boat capsizes, and Eva is lost overboard. In spite of intensive searches her body is not found, and her parents give up hope: but Faith believes her sister is still alive. The story is told by the different people in the story, reaching back to the birth of Eva and Faith, and showing their relationships, coming forward to the present, and Eva's bizarre life as a captive. She imprisoned on an island off the coast, once used for nuclear experiments.
This all sounds a fairly routine abduction,, but it is so much more. The development of the relationship between Eva and her captor, Billy, her past carefree life, Faith's belief in Eva's survival, strained relations between the parents, Faith's plan to search for Eva, Billy's increasing wildness: all is drawn out in an increasing sense of urgency, leading to the "can't put it down" bit.
The blurb on the front says "Convincing and compelling", "Gripping", Touching", Thumpingly good": it is all of these, but what it doesn't say is how beautifully it is written. The storm at sea, the peaceful Suffolk marshes, the eerie island, and, most of all, Billy bending over the drowned girl: they are all so vivid that I keep thinking I have actually seen them. in a film perhaps. But I can't have done, the picture has been painted by a superlative artist. When it comes out, buy it, read it.