Hidden Chapters is a contemporary story set on the Gower peninsula in Wales. The characters all plan to meet near Rhossili Bay to hold a memorial service for a young man who died on the Worm’s Head eighteen years ago.
They will celebrate the talented young man, who died so young. However, the gathering brings up old wounds for more than one character and secrets from the past are revealed.
Bethan is a skilled musician and her grandfather would like to help her make a rich life in America. Catrin hasn’t been back to the Gower for eighteen years, and she’s never understood her father’s hostility towards her. Elizabeth needs to lay her own ghosts to rest, and the memorial service offers her this opportunity.
I jumped at the chance to read this book because I’ve been to the Gower on several occasions visiting friends and attending weddings, so I was looking forward to a reminder of the area. I particularly enjoyed the parts about the location and its history. I thought that Catrin’s personal story moved well through a strong arc, ending in a most satisfactory way. However, the writing style was a challenge for me. I enjoy a book where dialogue is used to enhance the narrative and give the characters their own unique voices, but much of the plot in Hidden Chapters is related in large chunks of dialogue, which to me felt unnatural. There is much exposition: the characters explain points in order to get them across to the audience when, often, the characters would already have known the points she/he was making. I advise the author to make the most of the strengths of this nicely thought out story by finding a different way of putting information across, so that the reader is being told a story, rather than facts via conversation.
I liked many of the characters, particularly Bethan and how she overcame her challenges. Glamorous Elizabeth was well suited to her lifestyle too and I enjoyed how she evolved. I learnt much about deafness and sign language; however, in places it became repetitive, and at times more like a lecture than a story.
The whole storyline is about discovery of hidden truths and it makes for high emotions amongst the players. For me, the potential to take the reader on a rollercoaster wave was missed. I would have liked to see a wider range of emotions, perhaps going deeper with shock, fear, pain etc rather than using shouting and anger in most of the key moments.
The book has its good points and the Welsh setting will be a plus for some, but I’m afraid it missed the mark for me.
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Whoever said time heals all wounds is a liar
Haunted by the death of Aled at Worm’s Head, his sister Catrin returns to prepare the family home for sale, accompanied by her adopted Deaf daughter, Bethan. A web of lies and secrets spun by Catrin’s father slowly starts to unravel. Catrin, facing a crisis in her marriage, discovers that she must face this past if she is to heal and take control of her future.
Nobody expects to meet Bethan’s birth mother, Elizabeth, who they think is dead. Her arrival at a memorial for Aled sends shock waves through the family.
This is the beautifully told story of a family struggling with ghosts from the past.
Hidden Chapters is an optimistic novel about the hope and the courage each of us can find within ourselves to own our past and take control of the next chapter of our lives.
About the author
I grew up in Wales. Later I taught in London and then worked with Deaf Children in Hastings. I now live on the beautiful Isle of Wight with family and my cocker spaniel Pepper.