Dora Tide is pregnant. And terrified. She is terrified that she will be unable to be a good mother to her baby, because of a secret in her past that she has never been able to accept. But what kind of secret would have pursued her from childhood to motherhood? In Secrets of the Tides, by Hannah Richell, the Tide family is torn apart by a tragic secret that has haunted them for nearly twenty years.
When Dora – short for Pandora – and her older sister Cassie – Cassandra – were eight and eleven, they and their parents moved from a cramped London terrace to the spacious Tide family house on the heights of the Dorset coast. The move was really at their father Richard’s wish and their mother Helen, while trying her best, always seemed to resent the fact that she has had to uproot her family from London to live in a country town, and what’s more leave behind her career to become wife and mother and housekeeper. The resentment never quite bubbles over, however, and soon after their arrival Helen discovers that she is pregnant again. The girls are less than thrilled to have to share their lives with a baby – but soon Alfie is part of the family and they settle into a rhythm.
When Helen starts pursuing a summer fling with a local artist, however, her judgement starts to suffer, and one day she leaves the girls in charge of their three-year-old brother. Cassie, a rebellious teenager, couldn’t be less interested in babysitting and Dora, only barely out of babyhood herself, is not much more responsible. Coupled with holidaymaking crowds, a secret hideout and a fast changing tide, their trip to the beach turns to disaster.
Suddenly the Tide family rhythm is shattered. Every member of the family feels they have something to hide about their behaviour that day. Richard, too busy to spend the summer at home with his family, Helen, off chasing an illicit love affair, Cassie, exploring rebellion, and Dora, a clueless kid, and then Alfie … well, Alfie is just a baby. For Dora, the worst thing of that time is that she believes she is most to blame for the tragedy, a feeling only strengthened by the way her mother treats her and has always seemed to blame her. Cassie retreats further into her shell and finally leaves home, not getting back in touch for years.
As family tragedies go, the Tides really have sunk low, and the way that each member of the family feels they are to blame but is unable to communicate their own secret to the others, this is the true tragedy. They are so sure they are to blame but they each cannot accept that, and so they in their own ways lash out at those that should be closest to them. But maybe now that Dora is starting to bring in the next generation, the family is finally ready to close the lid on the past and become whole again.
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