Author: Jane Riddell

Publisher: ThornBerry Publishing UK

ISBN 978-1-909734-02-9

Summer is upon us and many reviews that come out now are prefaced by the phrase “Great Summer Reading.” Having just completed Water’s Edge by Jane Riddell, I find myself concluding that this novel not only makes for excellent summer reading, but great reading at any time of year. I’d say it’s one of my all time favourite books in the past twelve months.

Madalena holds a family reunion in the hotel that she runs in Brunnen, Switzerland. The hotel presides over a beautiful lake, hence, the title of the novel—Water’s Edge. Throughout the book, the reader is placed constantly on the edge of discovering significant secrets about Madalena’s family. And we are not disappointed. Riddell creates revelation upon revelation about family deceptions, and she does so in a uniquely masterful way.

There are several main characters in the story, and each one is developed extremely well by the author. The first chapter opens with Portia, a successful UK lawyer, as she looks around her old playroom in the Swiss home that she’d grown up in. Through Riddell’s vivid descriptions and engaging dialogue, we learn about Portia’s unsettled relationship with her teenage daughter Lucy, as well as her complicated history with siblings Vienne, Annie, and Lawrence. Each character is so well-portrayed that at times one can feel as if the novel is written from that person’s point of view, and then the novel shifts to focus more on another character, to which we become sympathetic or with whom we at least empathize.

The story unfolds somewhat slowly, but I don’t think that this is in the least a drawback in Water’s Edge. Certainly, my interest never waned while reading the book. After all, many great writers, such as Jane Austen, wrote novels that created wonderful character studies, intricate and subtle plots which revealed conflict and resolution in a well-paced manner, something that I believe Jane Riddell does extremely well. You want to find out what happens at the end of the novel, yet you enjoy—rather, savour— the story at every step.

The comparison to Jane Austen arises because there is something highly literary and almost classic about Water’s Edge. Riddell is an incredibly good writer and it was a pleasure to read such well-crafted literature. I found myself looking to see what other works she has written, not out of mere curiosity but with an interest in reading more of her works. Her next novel Chergui’s Child is in progress. I look forward to reading it.


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