Title: The Tides Between
Author: Elizabeth Jane Corbett
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA
Publisher: Odyssey Books
Published: 20th October 2017
Synopsis: In 1841, on the eve of her departure from London, Bridie’s mother demands she forget her dead father and prepare for a sensible, adult life in Port Phillip. Desperate to save her childhood, fifteen-year-old Bridie is determined to smuggle a notebook filled with her father’s fairy tales to the far side of the world.
When Rhys Bevan, a soft-voiced young storyteller and fellow traveller realises Bridie is hiding something, a magical friendship is born. But Rhys has his own secrets and the words written in Bridie’s notebook carry a dark double meaning.
As they inch towards their destination, Rhys’s past returns to haunt him. Bridie grapples with the implications of her dad’s final message. The pair take refuge in fairy tales, little expecting the trouble it will cause.
When Elizabeth Jane Corbett isn’t writing, she works as a librarian, teaches Welsh at the Melbourne Celtic Club, writes reviews and articles for the Historical Novel Society and blogs at elizabethjanecorbett.com. In 2009, her short-story, Beyond the Blackout Curtain, won the Bristol Short Story Prize. Another, Silent Night, was short listed for the Allan Marshall Short Story Award. An early draft of her debut novel, The Tides Between, was shortlisted for a HarperCollins Varuna manuscript development award. Elizabeth lives with her husband, Andrew, in a renovated timber cottage in Melbourne’s inner-north. She likes red shoes, dark chocolate, commuter cycling, and reading quirky, character driven novels set once-upon-a-time in lands far, far away.
Bridie Stewart’s life is about to change forever. Aged fifteen, she is about to embark on a journey with her mother and stepfather that will take her half-way across the world to the colonies of Australia, far from what she knows. Adamant she will never forget her father, Bridie smuggles a notebook, her final gift from him on board, where she meets Rhys Bevan and his wife, Siân, and with Rhys, she begins to fill her notebook with Welsh fairy tales. These stories help them on their journey, both of them loved by their families but at the same time, feeling alone. And so, a friendship forms between Rhys, Siân and Bridie, as they write stories together along the arduous journey from England to Port Phillip. Along the way, there will be magic, woven through the words and music of the stories Rhys shares with Bridie, and over time, she will grow up. As they enter the waters of Australia, there is trouble and tragedy to come, that will hit them all and cause immense pain.
Elizabeth Jane Corbett’s novel takes place almost entirely on the fictional emigrant ship, The Lady Sophia, bookended by the departure and destination in the opening and final chapters. Through Bridie and Rhys, in third person, the novel moves easily between their perspectives and has a shroud of mystery about it, where details about the characters and their histories are revealed at exactly the right time. The fairy tale feel of this novel is what makes it unique and magical, and makes what would have been a very arduous journey in the 1840s bearable, at least for a while.
It is a lovely story of friendship and the power of fairy tales during hard times and tragedy, and how stories can shape our world and the way we see it. The stories are what begin to heal Bridie, leading up to the climatic tragedy that brings several surprises to those aboard the ship, and realisations from characters who had once shrugged Bridie and her family, and the other steerage passengers off, such as Doctor Roberts. Each character has flaws that they come to recognise, or not, as the novel progresses, and relationships between some have changed by the end of the novel.
I enjoyed that this novel focussed more on the friendships and family relationships, and Bridie’s individual character than a romantic relationship, something that is quite refreshing in literature and in Young Adult novels, showing that there is more to life than romance – it shows that other relationships can have the same degree of love, but in a different and perhaps more important way to some people. Bridie was a delightful character, full of life, wonder ad kindness towards those around her. The ending was sweet and realistic, showing the impact that the journey and her friendship with Rhys had had on the two of them. A wonderful novel that can be enjoyed beyond the Young Adult age group.