Here is the little blurb from Simon & Schuster and then I’ll share my thoughts on Beyond the Wild River by Sarah Maine.
“For fans of Kate Morton and Beatriz Williams, a highly atmospheric and suspenseful historical novel, set in the 1890s about a Scottish heiress who unexpectedly encounters her childhood friend in North America, five years after he disappeared from her family’s estate the night of a double murder.
Nineteen-year-old Evelyn Ballantyre has rarely strayed from her family’s estate in the Scottish Borderlands, save for the occasional trip to Edinburgh, where her father, a respected magistrate, conducts his business — and affairs of another kind. Evelyn has always done her duty as a daughter, hiding her boredom and resentment behind good manners — so when an innocent friendship with a servant is misinterpreted by her father as an illicit union, Evelyn is appalled.
Yet the consequence is a welcome one: she is to accompany her father on a trip to North America, where they’ll visit New York City, the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and conclude with a fishing expedition on the Nipigon River in Canada. Now is her chance to escape her cloistered life, see the world, and reconnect with her father.
Once they’re on the Nipigon, however, Evelyn is shocked to discover that their guide is James Douglas, the former stable hand and her one-time friend who disappeared from the estate after the shootings of a poacher and a gamekeeper. Many had assumed that James had been responsible, but Evelyn never could believe it. Now, in the wilds of a new world, far from the constraints of polite society, the truth about that day, James, and her father will be revealed … to stunning consequences.”
The North has always held a special place in my heart. Northern Ontario is where I grew up. It is where I caught my first fish, where I first fell in love, camped out under the stars, saw the northern lights and skipped rocks on the lake, and suffice it to say, reading Beyond the Wild River was like going home.
You’ll find romance and mystery within the pages of Beyond the Wild River, but that wasn’t exactly what kept me turning pages. In truth, it was the settling of scores that kept me up well past my bedtime.
While chatting with an Instagram friend of mine, she made the remark that in Maine’s previous novel The House Between Tides; the island takes on a personality of its own. I couldn’t help make that identical connection with this novel as well. The fierceness, the splendor, the viciousness of the North takes up as much space as the central characters, if not more.
Another aspect of the novel that I enjoyed was how she illustrates that this historical period is on the cusp of change. Through Evelyn’s eyes we see how the environment, the government, big money and women’s issues are transforming. Going beyond this, there are strong contrast in the book as well from high society/wilderness — White men/savages — privilege/ordinary folk, just to name a few.
However, like I said, my favorite part of the book was the slow progression of revenge. It can often take years to plan and can consumes someone entirely. I think the flow of the book reflects that perfectly. That, in itself was a work of art. Maine brings you along slowly, methodically and then only delivering the final blow at the very end. The way the book is written, you are somewhat left in the dark about many aspects of her father’s plot, Evelyn is too and her frustrations became mine.
I miss Northern Ontario very much, ok maybe not the plumes of mosquitos during the summer, but definitely getting lost in the woods, surrounded by the smells and voices of the forest. Sarah Maine’s Beyond the Wild River is highly atmospheric and moody, perfect for those grey spring days or cool evenings.
You can find my review for The House Between Tides, also by Sarah Maine ——> HERE
Thank you Simon and Schuster for sending me an advance copy for review.
Beyond the Wild River is available now