Fiction often introduces readers to new settings, and the best writing makes those places come to life. Anne Allen’s novel Dangerous Waters beautifully captures the essence of the Island of Guernsey. Jeanne returns to the island from the English mainland after a 15 year absence to put her recently departed grandmother’s affairs in order.
It’s soon evident how strongly she is connected to the ancient cottage her grandmother called home.
Jeanne doesn’t initially plan on staying, but the pull of the island is too great, even though she left years ago after tragically losing her parents as a teenager. The author plants subtle clues in the first few chapters that immerse the reader in the story. Jeanne begins to deal with the amnesia related to her parents’ accident, while at the same time writing a book inspired by her grandmother’s handwritten recipes and also overseeing the renovation of her grandmother’s beloved cottage.
The layers present in the story are extremely well done. Jeanne’s family history and the events that unfold keep Dangerous Waters moving at a brisk pace. The importance of place guides this story and the descriptions never disappoint. Jeanne is a character coming to terms with her past amid a breathtaking setting. Each discovery she makes feels as if the reader is standing at Jeanne’s side.
The romantic interests in the story could have benefitted from a fuller sense of characterization, but even then the author manages to add some satisfying twists and turns as two men compete for Jeanne’s attention. At times, her thoughts are italicized, but not consistently. It was difficult to fully picture the type of cookbook Jeanne is writing and if such a book would garner such an advance. Such issues are minor in light of a great read that utilizes setting as if a character.
I would readily read more work by Anne Allen. Anyone who enjoys detailed setting will find her work well worth the read. You can connect with Anne and her social media accounts via her website.
What books have you read that create a strong sense of place?
A complimentary copy was provided by the author in exchange for this review. For more insight, read my Book Review Criteria.
Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2012.