Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Hotel on Shadow Lake – Daniela Tully

The transition between two books is always a disconcerting experience, particularly if you pick up a new one the instant you’ve read the final line of the last. Not only are you torn from one fictional world to another, but into an often contrasting narrative voice and style. 

If you were any part invested in the world of the former, the journey into the new land can be one of resentment or betrayal. This was the initial battle I fought with Hotel on Shadow Lake. In fact, Daniela Tully’s simple and statement-led narrative style was something I struggled to be drawn into for a few chapters, having just left the richly scribed pages of another. But it wasn’t too long before the real strength of Tully’s debut novel struck, and intrigued me to rapidly finish: it’s a page-turner.

The novel was inspired by Tully’s German grandmother receiving a letter posted by her twin brother over forty years before. Partly set in World War II Germany, following protagonist Maya’s grandmother during the rise of Nazi rule, Hotel on Shadow Lake is a tale of mystery, family secrets and forbidden love. The second narrative thread details Maya’s own journey to America, some 26 years later, to find out what really happened when her grandmother disappeared. 

In this sense, until the conclusion that neatly ties the two strands together, the novel seems like two books in one. In fact, it is not just these two distinct stories; Tully weaves through multiple narrative pieces, from lost family letters to elaborate fairy tales. And where the strength of written style is lacking slightly, Tully makes up for this with an adept sense of storytelling. 

Although a bigger focus is placed on Maya and her endeavours, it is Martha’s journey that is most striking. While it doesn’t quite fulfil its emotional potential, Martha’s defiance, struggles and remarkable relationship are what linger in the mind beyond the closing chapters.

And as for the ending -  though a series of unpredictable twists and turns take you to a slightly cliché finish, it’s a satisfying one that again proves Tully’s flair for storytelling.

*I was gifted this book in exchange for a review, but all words and opinions are my own.
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