On a sultry summer’s day in 1980, five friends stumble upon an abandoned lakeside cottage hidden deep in the English countryside. For Kat and her housemates, it offers an escape, a chance to drop out for a while. But as the seasons change, tensions begin to rise and when an unexpected visitor appears at their door, nothing will be the same again.
Three decades later, Lila arrives at the same remote cottage. With her marriage in crisis, she finds solace in renovating the tumbledown house. Little by little she wonders about the previous inhabitants. How did they manage in such isolation? And why did they leave in such a hurry, with their belongings still strewn about? Most disturbing of all, why can’t she shake the feeling that someone might be watching her?
This is a big book that sucked me in very quickly, although I did find the chapters set in the 80s by far more engaging than Lila’s modern day segments. Poor Lila’s problems were a bit too circular, stuck in a cycle of withdrawing, sinking, reaching out, misunderstanding her husband and withdrawing again. I sympathized with her but found reading about her inner thoughts tiresome…especially as she doesn’t make any progress until the last few chapters.
But the story of the five friends in the abandoned cottage had me hooked as they squabbled and worked together to create a new life for themselves. The dark undercurrents of the relationships creates uneasy tension throughout the story and the community always feels on the brink of something terrible happening.
This book is also a great look at what happens when you let an obsession rule your life; it’s not always about the lengths you will go to in order to win your chosen partner, but the things you will sacrifice and let slip away to keep this one thing. The last pages left me chilled to the bone!