I enjoyed The Tides Between, by Elizabeth Jane Corbett, for many reasons. Warm, layered characters that you care about, lyrical and beautiful prose, and a wonderful depth of humanity. This coming of age story whose protagonist, Bridie Stewart, spends her journey to Port Phillip trying to understand her place in her family and the wider world. In the end, she realises that no situation is without complexity and that grief can cast a haze of misunderstanding. As the story progresses, there is an emotional groundswell that builds slowly and deftly.
Amidst a typhus outbreak, lack of personal space and general uncertainty for their future, the inhabitants of the Lady Sophia are thrown together and must make the best of a difficult situation. Grief and suffering are in Bridie’s immediate vicinity, so given that these are issues she is trying to reconcile, it works very well. Her progression into adulthood is about understanding all the variables and traumas that underpin decisions — things are rarely as they seem.
Fairy tales are an important part of the novel, they elucidate and echo the themes, give them weight and add a mystical element. Sian’s origins and her interest in magic are linked to this, but also to Bridie’s book of stories and her bond with the Welsh couple.
Well-researched and emotionally subtle, this is a novel that would appeal to a wide audience. Highly recommended.