Book review: The Hourglass by Tracy Rees

5 May

hourglass2014. Nora has always taken success for granted, until suddenly her life begins to fall apart. Troubled by anxiety and nightmares, she finds herself drawn to the sweeping beaches of Tenby, a place she’s only been once before. Together with a local girl she rents a beautiful townhouse and slowly begins to settle in to her new life. But Tenby hides a secret, and Nora will soon discover that this little town by the sea has the power to heal even the most painful memories.

1950. Chloe visits Tenby every summer. She stays with relatives, and spends the long, idyllic days on the beach. Every year is the same, until she meets a glamorous older boy and is instantly smitten. But on the night of their first date, Chloe comes to a realisation, the aftermath of which could haunt her forever.

The Hourglass is a moving novel about finding love even after it seems too late and the healing power of a magical place by the sea.

I read my first Tracy Rees book, Florence Gracelast year and absolutely loved it so I was very excited to be sent a copy of Tracy’s new novel, The Hourglass. Tracy’s two previous books have both been historical novels so The Hourglass is a little bit of a new direction as it’s set partly in the present (2014) and partly in the 1950s. I wondered how Tracy’s writing would move to the timeslip format and I have to say she’s aced it!

Tracy has a wonderful way of making you feel that you’re ‘there’ in her writing, whether ‘there’ is a desolate moor in the 1700s or a sunny beach in 1950s and I was completely swept up in her descriptions of Tenby in the 1950s and today. The Hourglass follows the stories of Chloe and Nora. Chloe is Welsh a teenager who visits her Auntie Susan in Tenby for three weeks every summer starting when she’s ten.

Rees perfectly captures the excitement of a summer seaside holiday from a bygone era and I loved following each summer Chloe as she grew up, went to the much coveted ‘Tenby Teens’ dances and spent long happy days exploring with her best friend Llew. Tracey evokes an era of Famous Five style adventures and I couldn’t get enough of these parts of the book.

In contrast, Nora as we meet her is very unhappy. She’s just about to turn 40 and is very successful at her job as an administrator for the history department of a big London University, has recently dumped her boyfriend and is suffering from severe anxiety attacks. Her free-spirited mother Jasmine thinks she’s having some sort of mid-life crisis and for the first time their close relationship begins to falter. Nora finds herself wishing for open beaches and space and finds herself drawn to Tenby, a place that she visited once as a child.

I could identify so much with Nora; for me, turning forty earlier in the year has made me evaluate where I am in life and where I’m going! My life is very different to Nora’s but I loved that Tracy captured that sense of a turning point in a book and coincidentally captured my own desire to live by the sea (which has been stronger than every this year) rather than to remain in London forever!

As regular readers will know, I love books set by the sea and especially the British seaside so the setting for this book ticked all the boxes for me and I enjoyed how Tracy captured the wonderful sense of calm that can come with being at the coast. As Nora begins her own adventure in Tenby, the story moves back and forth between her story and Chloe’s and links begin to emerge. The Hourglass is very cleverly written to drip feed clues to the linkages between the stories as the novel progresses and I was absolutely hooked!

As with all good books, on the one hand I couldn’t wait to find out what had happened to Chloe all those years ago and what would happen to Nora in the present but I also didn’t want the story to end! I said in my review of Florence Grace that the book had a philosophical air to it and was peppered with timeless and insightful advice and the same is true of The Hourglass.

The Hourglass has gone straight onto my list of favourite books of 2017 and I can’t wait for more from Tracy!

5/5

The Hourglass is out now in  paperback, ebook and audio formats from Quercus.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.

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