Monday, 17 April 2017

Beyond the Wild River

Author: Sarah Maine
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Atria Books (Simon and Schuster Canada)
First Published: April 18, 2017
First Line: "The gunshot lifted the rooks from the branches."

Book Description from GoodReadsFor fans of Kate Morton and Beatriz Williams, a highly atmospheric and suspenseful historical novel, set in the 1890s about a Scottish heiress who unexpectedly encounters her childhood friend in North America, five years after he disappeared from her family’s estate the night of a double murder.

Nineteen-year-old Evelyn Ballantyre has rarely strayed from her family’s estate in the Scottish Borderlands, save for the occasional trip to Edinburgh, where her father, a respected magistrate, conducts his business—and affairs of another kind. Evelyn has always done her duty as a daughter, hiding her boredom and resentment behind good manners—so when an innocent friendship with a servant is misinterpreted by her father as an illicit union, Evelyn is appalled.

Yet the consequence is a welcome one: she is to accompany her father on a trip to North America, where they’ll visit New York City, the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and conclude with a fishing expedition on the Nipigon River in Canada. Now is her chance to escape her cloistered life, see the world, and reconnect with her father.

Once they’re on the Nipigon, however, Evelyn is shocked to discover that their guide is James Douglas, the former stable hand and her one-time friend who disappeared from the estate after the shootings of a poacher and a gamekeeper. Many had assumed that James had been responsible, but Evelyn never could believe it. Now, in the wilds of a new world, far from the constraints of polite society, the truth about that day, James, and her father will be revealed…to stunning consequences.

My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: Beyond the Wild River is an atmospheric read set in the borderlands of Scotland and the wilds of northern Ontario, my home province. The descriptions of both settings are vividly drawn for the reader, and with so much focus on Northern Ontario, it almost becomes a character in its own right. 

The plot had an intriguing premise but the execution was at a much slower pace and was less compelling than I had expected. While I enjoyed some of the descriptions of the flora and fauna, I would have preferred additional page time dedicated to plot twists and more depth to the characters, specifically Evelyn. The tension doesn't build until the last quarter of the book where things finally come to a head. Until then, there was often too much description at the expense of the plot. Readers should also expect a rather large dose of happenstance as the characters' lives merge in a very remote part of the globe.

Overall, this book was just okay. I struggled to stay invested in the story for much of the book but the ending brings many of the loose ends together for an expected yet decent conclusion. 

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Atria Books for providing me with a complimentary paperback copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.


Elizabeth said...

Nice review.

I couldn't get into the book. Glad you stuck it out. I had to stop.


Jorie said...

Hallo, Hallo!

I'm going through the book blogsphere seeking out readers who read the same book I did recently, to see how it resonated with them. I am finding for the most part, many of us had the same takeaways regarding pacing and the overall ending of how things knitted together. A few loved it outright, which I respect as we all cannot love the same books all of the time.

Similar to you, I felt there were a few missteps - when I stopped looking for the 'atmospheric suspense' elements, I saw this more of a coming-of age story set around Evelyn and her emergence into adulthood. In that vein, it turned into a different kind of plot for me and became enjoyable; until at least, the concluding chapters where I felt there were a few misses in regards to how the story resolved.

I, too, felt there were moments where I was growing disinterested but I kept on if only to see how Evelyn, James and her father would get through this ordeal.

Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...

Elizabeth -- That's too bad it wasn't the book for you. It had a great premise so I was hoping things would come together with a bit more suspense than I got.

Jorie -- It's interesting how some books are so polarizing (I found the same thing with The Underground Railroad which was a hit with many people -- just not me). In this book I felt that the characters could have had more depth to them but I'm glad that you were able to get more from it than I did. I appreciated her detailed description of northern Ontario, especially since I spent a rather large chunk of it living in Timmins and Sudbury.

Elizabeth said...

It was disappointing, but I just couldn't connect.

Thanks for your reply.


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