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The Stranger
The Stranger by Kate Riordan
Cornwall, 1940.
In the hushed hours of the night a woman is taken by the sea.
Was it a tragic accident? Or should the residents of Penhallow have been more careful about whom they invited in?

In the midst of war three women arrive seeking safety at Penhallow Hall.
Each is looking to escape her past.

But one of them is not there by choice.

As the threat of invasion mounts and the nightly blackouts feel longer and longer, tensions between the close-knit residents rise until dark secrets start to surface.
And no one can predict what their neighbour is capable of . . .

In a house full of strangers, who do you trust?

My review:

Cornwall 1940
A missing woman and a small community filled with secrets…

The novel opens on Sunday 20th July 1940, the night Diana Devlin goes missing. The scene is set at Breakheart cove with the thunder and lightening of the coast as a backdrop.Five hours later, her friend Rose reads her diary muttering the words. . .
‘Oh Diana what have you done?’

The novel timeline then jumps to six weeks previously and portrays the build up to her disappearance. We are quickly introduced to Diana, a danger seeking, reluctant land girl. Having been exiled by her own mother to the solitude of Cornwall, she takes it upon herself to create her own entertainment….

‘One relishes a bit of danger’

At Penhallow Hall, we become acquainted with the other characters in the novel. The child-like and tearful Eleanor, the bossy and formidable Mrs Fox and the lonely wife Rose. Diana is quick to form a friendship with Rose, but Rose has secrets of her own and she is hesitant to share. Diana feels more and more isolated. She detests the bleak countryside and longs for drama and excitement. But it isn’t long until a third land girl arrives, the young and timid Jane.

‘And then there were three’

At first Diana remarks that Jane appears as a brooding irritable gypsy. She notes that Eleanor has begun to act odd, due to Jane’s arrival. One thing is for certain, Diana feels like the cat among the pigeons.

‘One good thing about this dreary war is that it encourages people to break the rules’

The novel focuses on the individual young women’s stories. Their pasts will come back to haunt them, during their stay at Penhallow Hall. But What secrets lurk in their closets?

‘I am on the wrong side of thick glass, looking in and trying to feel something’

I loved the slow, development of the characters. I felt the coastal setting and rural location of Cornwall, really added to the novel. Diana’s manipulation of events and unsubtle hints, show her true character.
Her own secrets haunt her throughout the novel.

‘they say that what we recoil from in others is what we are secretly ashamed of in ourselves’

As the girls grow closer, they do eventually confide in one another and this is when we get a glimpse into their pasts. Unhappy marriages, childhood shame and promiscuity all play their role. Between the late night confessions, gossip and speculation; you come to realise these are three young women with the weight of the world on their shoulders.

‘This place is thick with secrets’

The ww2 era creates more tensions and drama. With each of the young women, fearing for their futures. Will the Germans invade? The nightly blackouts and wartime tensions, add pressure to these young women’s lives. Then one of the women is taken by the sea. Did she fall? Was she pushed? Was it an innocent encounter? Or a sinister stranger? 4*

‘They’re all mad here’

Kate Riordan