Publication Date: March 26, 2012
In Dangerous Waters – Mystery, loss and love on the island of Guernsey by Anne Allen, Jeanne LePage never thought she’d return to the Island of Guernsey after the tragic boating accident that killed her parents and left her with amnesia and a crippling fear of the water. Now, many years later, her grandmother has passed on, leaving her the family cottage. While renovating the cottage, Jeanne discovers dark family secrets. As she experiences flashbacks of the boating accident — what will she remember and will what she remembers, be enough to endanger her own life?
The author, Anne Allen, gave me a copy of this novel in exchange for my review.
Jeanne LePage is a writer and a reader, and in the novel, she is a fan of Maeve Binchy and Katie Fforde. I have never read Katie Fforde (though readers of this blog will know her distant cousin Jasper to be my favorite author), but I have read Binchy and the tone of Dangerous Waters – Mystery, loss and love on the island of Guernsey has the sound and feeling of that author’s work — not in the sense of a copy but in the spirit of the characters and narrative. Jeanne is a damaged young woman. She was on the boat with her parents when they were killed and more recently she lost a child because of a fall down the stairs. The relationship with her father had already crumbled before the loss. Returning to Guernsey seems like a lovely fresh start for Jeanne. Her high school crush asks her out and invites her into his circle of friends (pun intended). Jeanne isn’t ready for a relationship, and Marcus is moving fast but she doesn’t jump into bed with him, which is a credit to the author because sex is a very easy thing to throw a character into these days. But for this character, it would not have seemed logical.
Allen’s plotting is very easily advanced. Jeanne needs groceries so she goes to get them and here’s what happened when she did. Did she find a clue on the way? Here’s how she came upon it. There are moments of humor but for the most part, Dangerous Waters – Mystery, loss and love on the island of Guernsey is a drama about a young woman coming to terms with the past and moving on with her life. There is an outright mystery at the start — was the boating accident truly an accident?
As the story advances, Jeanne finds that her grandmother had a relationship with a Nazi soldier during the occupation. Allen intertwines the history of the island beautifully into the story. There’s talk about horizontal collaborators on the island that weren’t treated as badly as they were in France. The letters written by Wilhelm to the late Jeanne are rife with broken English that lends to the credibility of the piece.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the dialogue of the piece and how very English it is. The unique phrasings lent themselves to the setting. So many times these days, a U.S./Canada release by foreign authors will Americanize sayings or idioms for that audience. To do so in this novel would have been a tragedy and would have probably led the dialogue to sound too formal to our more relaxed ear. When Nick asks Jeanne if she’d be happy to share his meal, that’s not a phrasing we’d use here but it’s uniquely English and adds to the authenticity of the setting.
Within the story, Jeanne is writing a cookbook using her grandmother’s recipes. Allen includes a few recipes at the end of the novel that sound wonderful. I am not a person who cooks for fun but if I were, I’d try them out — especially the rabbit pie.
This is a great read. If you like Maeve Binchy, you’ll like Dangerous Waters by Anne Allen. Read an excerpt and buy on