Friday, August 24, 2018

The Tides Between by Elizabeth Jane Corbett – Book Review

Book: The Tides Between
Author: Elizabeth Jane Corbett
Publisher: Odyssey Books
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Travel, Relationships

In the year 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.

Book Review

“Painful, it is, when the words that once brought comfort seem to lose their voice. It’s not the stories that are at fault. Or that we are foolish to believe. Only that we must learn to see with different eyes. Sometimes it takes time and the answers aren’t always easy – that’s part of the magic. But we are never too old for fairy tales, Bridie Stewart, no matter what Alf or your Ma might say.”

The Tides Between by Elizabeth Jane Corbett is an emotional story about family, hardship, a journey to something better, and how fairy tales can bring people together.

Bridie, the protagonist, whose name I’d been reading as Birdie until half-way through the book, is a kind-hearted 15-year-old who is on the cusp of growing up. She is seen clinging to a notebook her father bought her before he died and her mother trying to wrench it away from her, demanding that she grow up and leave the world of fairy tales behind her.

The book begins with Bridie finding some form of solace in Rhys and later Sian, away from her demanding, and often cruel mother and her "stupid" stepfather, who "the subtleties of life often eluded him."

The story brings together a host of characters and their families. There is Bridie, her pregnant and bad-tempered mother, and her stepfather Alf, as well as the Welsh couple Rhys and Sian, Dr. Roberts, and many more. The book shows their relationships, both personal and towards their fellow travellers, and how they grow and weaken as they traverse the seas all the way to Australia for what is touted as a better life with lots of jobs.

“Fairy tales are nonsense.”
“We all need stories, Mr. Bustle. They help us understand our lives.”

One of the things I liked about The Tides Between is the storytelling. There are lots of stories within the novel itself, many of Welsh origin, told by Rhys and his wife Sian. There are also a lot of songs and poetry.

The pace is good, even though not many events take place. Events in this book are in the sense that people are coming and going and the rise-and-fall of their relationships and, actions, reactions. Nearly the entire story is told onboard the Lady Sophia which is travelling from London in the 1840’s to Australia.

“Every piece of music held a story, her dad told her – a thread that attached itself to the heart. She’d become attuned to those threads, growing up to the strains of Mozart’s Magic Flute, and Purcell’s music for The Tempest, hearing tales of fairy queens, Arabian nights and midsummer dreams – this was a sad song, quite apart from Peachum and his cronies in the Beggars’ Opera. A long haunting melody that spoke of sadness and longing.”

I absolutely loved the characters in The Tides Between, how they mingled together, even the obnoxious Tom and the silly but kind Alf. I also liked how Corbett weaves her characters’ background into the stories. We learn about Rhys’ relationship with his father, Sian’s possible curse, the relationship between Bridie’s parents and others.

As the Lady Sofia nears Australia, Bridie begins to merge her childhood with the responsibilities bestowed on her; she begins to see her stepfather, Alf, in a new light. Alf along with several other characters also see some development.

There are many great images in the book and even stronger quotes and dialogue. By the time, I finished reading The Tides Between, I felt that the characters had become a part of my life.

It is worth mentioning that The Tides Between is not your average read. There is no major mystery or nerve-wrecking suspense. But it is a story about characters, about people. It is deep, emotional, and a must-read.

I would also like to mention that there was a scene that inspired me to write my poem "The Stone"

“We are all of us running, Tom, from poverty and disappointment, perhaps, some of us from cruel expectations. It takes courage to see ourselves truly, to take pleasure in our modest achievements. I’m not sure I have that courage. Or that I will ever now find it. Pray God, I am wrong. That like Elffin, I will one day find wealth where I least expect it.”

Overall rating for The Tides Between: 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of The Tides Between from its author Elizabeth Jane Corbett in exchange for an honest review. The free copy has not impacted my review in any way.

About the Author:

When Elizabeth Jane Corbett isn’t writing, she works as a librarian, teaches Welsh at the Melbourne Welsh Church, writes articles for the Historical Novel Review and blogs at

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. Her historical coming-of-age novel, The Tides Between, was published by Odyssey Books in October 2017.
Elizabeth lives with her husband, 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 away.

Connect with Elizabeth Jane Corbett via Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and her Website.

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