How can I have never come across Amanda Jennings before? Be warned though, In Her Wake is definitely a one-sitting read; I was up until midnight because I wanted to finish it, though I was very glad I did.
From the outset the book is layered with sadness, guilt and the thousand other things which make up a family. The Old Vicarage whilst beautiful, has the underlying feeling of claustrophobia coupled with walls that hold a myriad of secrets that, rather cocooning Bella in safety, seemed to constrain her like a straight-jacket.
The characters are crafted exquisitely so I had a clear image of each of them. The love Bella had for her mother, Elaine, was clear as was her desire to not break the fragility of Elaine's existence. This walking on eggshells along with the emotional detachment of Henry, Bella's Father, led me to think that Bella felt like she had to be the perfect daughter. It was this desire to please and her emotional naivety that meant she was easy prey for David. The control he had over Bella was just an extension of her relationship with Elaine; from the frying pan into the fire so to speak.
As for Bella herself, I was willing her to find her true self - I couldn't help but be drawn to her, and I certainly wanted to give her a hug and just a bit of actual, real affection. Even through her mistakes and bumbling attempts to make things better, I could see her reasoning and was willing to forgive her readily for whatever errors she made. Her fragility was both painful and heart-wrenching to read.
In Her Wake is tremendously atmospheric and it's this, together with the intriguing story of Bella's past, present and future, that held me in its wake. The beauty of the Cornish coast made me want to believe that Bella was going to triumph; that she was going to absorb the beauty into her life somehow.
Amanda Jennings writes so evocatively about loss, grief, hope and forgiveness; these are the reasons I found it impossible to leave it unfinished.
A truly magnificent read.