1980: As graduation approaches, a group of friends set off for the countryside to escape the heat of the city during a hot summer day. When they discover an abandoned cottage by a gloriously cool lake, they start to imagine a life away from civilisation and the pressure life can bring. What if they stayed at the cottage, living off the land and enjoying the landscape?
30 years later, Lila is struggling with grief and a flailing marriage when she's offered a secluded lake-side cottage. Needing some time and space to work through her emotions of the past few months, Lila takes on the crumbling cottage, planning to renovate it to a habitable standard. The cottage hasn't been used for decades but the lives of the past inhabitants is evident, their possessions still in place. Who once lived in this remote cottage? And what made them flee, leaving everything behind?
The Shadow Year has been on my TBR pile FOREVER but I'm so glad I finally got round to reading it as it's such a fantastic, gripping read full of tension and mystery. While I did find the pace quite slow, I was hooked and fully immersed in the stories of Lila and the group of friends who arrived at the cottage during the early 80s. Kat and her friends arrived at the cottage full of vigour and an idealistic view of the year ahead of them and to begin with, life at the cottage is as wonderful as they imagined but their friendship is tested when their secret hideaway is discovered and a series of events unfolds that will change the group dynamics.
For me, Kat proved to be an interesting character because I could never quite get to grips with how I felt about her. At times I felt sorry for her and other times I couldn't help being frustrated with her thoughts and actions. My feelings towards her swayed throughout the book and I liked that she wasn't a perfectly rounded character. She has flaws which made her feel more real. She's easily swayed and although she seems quite tough and robust on the outside, inside is a different matter and I found her to be quite weak when it comes to her friend and housemate, Simon. Mind you, all of them were weak when it came to Simon and I was willing them to stand up to him more as he increasingly ruled their life at the cottage.
The book alternates between the 80s with Kat and her friends at the cottage and the present day, in which interior designer Lila discovers the cottage for herself. Sometimes when there is such a shift in perspective, I'm drawn to one storyline more than the other but in this case I think there was a good balance. While there's the mystery of what happened at the cottage three decades earlier, there are secrets in Lila's life too and I was intrigued by these and eager to discover more. Like Kat, I found myself swaying in opinion of Lila as I could understand her grief but it was frustrating seeing her pushing away her husband, Tom.
The Shadow Year is full of tension and intrigue. The mood is often dark and brooding as winter takes hold and we know that something happened at the cottage thirty years ago and I couldn't wait to find out what it was. There are loads and twists, turns and curveballs within the book and although I did spot some of them before the reveal, I thought it was a fantastic read that had me frantically turning the pages to discover their secrets.