We’ve got to that point in the year again where all the BIG books are being released and the excitement is brewing. When Penguin Random House got in touch to see if I wanted to be part of the blog tour for The Stranger by Kate Riordan, I was over the moon. I read (and adored) The Girl in the Photograph a few years ago and spent a lot of my time recommending it to everyone I knew so I was pretty sure that The Stranger would be equally as enjoyable.
In the hushed hours of the night a woman is taken by the sea. Was it a tragic accident? Or should the residents of Penhallow have been more careful about whom they invited in? In the midst of war three women arrive seeking safety at Penhallow Hall. Each is looking to escape her past. But one of them is not there by choice. As the threat of invasion mounts and the nightly blackouts feel longer and longer, tensions between the close-knit residents rise until dark secrets start to surface. And no one can predict what their neighbour is capable of . . . In a house full of strangers, who do you trust?
The story starts in 1940’s Cornwall. Two girls have arrived in Cornwall as land girls, to work and escape the blitz that is currently going on in London, and a third has lived there for a while, the granddaughter of Penhallow Hall’s owner. We then discover that Diana, one of the three girls and the girl who the story is told from the perspective of later down the line, has disappeared without a trace. We are taken back in time 6 weeks and slowly but surely the story begins to unravel, a small clue at a time and it quickly becomes apparent that everyone and everything is full of secrets and whispers. We are introduced to the weeks leading up to Diana’s disappearance and the story becomes addictive in the sense that you are keen to read on and discover exactly what has happened. As friendships are made and others fall apart, these secrets start to make their way to the surface and everything reveals itself as being not quite like it seems.
Cornwall as a setting is just beautiful and I found myself almost smelling the fresh sea air as I read. The characterisation in the story is very interesting – Diana is a beautiful and engaging character, full of danger and mischief. It’s clear that all of the female characters have gone through suffering and this is evident within the story- this suffering has lead to character flaws, all of which make the story, and consequently the characters and their roles, all the more believable. I found myself doubting everyone and everything, dying to find out just who was responsible- if anyone- for Diana’s disappearance. There were parts of the story that left me feeling uncomfortable but this only did more to give the story depth and that edge of realism. There is a glistening of hope at the end of the dark tunnel, in spite of all the heartbreak and misfortune throughout the story.
If you’re a lover of historical fiction then this one is definitely for you- I enjoyed the setting and the characters, the story was poignant and thought-provoking and is a definite must-read for lovers of the genre.