Book Review: The River Home by Hannah Richell

The River Home…

About the Book:

The river can take you home. But the river can also drag you under…

Margot Sorrell didn’t want to go home. She had spent all her adult life trying not to look behind. But a text from her sister Lucy brought her back to Somerset. ‘I need you.’

As Margot, Lucy and their eldest sister, Eve, reunite in the house they grew up in beside the river, the secrets they keep from each other, and from themselves, refuse to stay hidden. A wedding brings them together but long-simmering resentments threaten to tear the family apart. No one could imagine the way this gathering would change them all forever. And through the sorrow they are forced to confront, there is a chance that healing will also come. But only if the truth is told.

The new novel from bestselling author Hannah Richell. A wise and emotionally powerful story of a broken family and the courage it takes to heal.

My Thoughts:

This novel is exquisite. I’m not sure why this has surprised me so much about it; Hannah Richell is an author whose work is known to me and highly appreciated. And yet, the depth in which this story has reached within me is unexpected. It is beautifully written: atmospheric and heartfelt with an honesty that is pierced with raw pain. The issues at the forefront of this novel are weighty but they are explored with attuned sensitivity whilst also retaining the gravity they deserve. This is a novel that invokes a range of emotions, indeed, I felt myself swinging from anger to despair and heartbreak to hope right the way through.

‘It’s something she learned years ago – the hard way – and that she knows she will never forget: even the sweetest fruit will fall and rot into the earth, eventually. No matter how deep you bury the pain, the bones of it will rise up to haunt you, like the sickly scent of those apples, like the echoes of a summer’s night, like the river flowing relentlessly on its course.’

The symbolism of the river within this novel cannot be underestimated. For Margot, it is the source of her trauma, but the complexity of this is threefold. Hannah Richell demonstrates how layered trauma can be; Margot’s story has so much more to it than meets the eye. Her suffering affected me greatly. As her trauma came to light, the incredulity of no one noticing what Margot was going through at the time incensed me. But upon deeper reflection I was struck by something profound: as the reader, I had been given all the clues that Margot’s family had, and yet, I was still shocked by what was revealed. I hadn’t seen what was happening right before my eyes either, and all of a sudden, my rage at Margot’s mother evaporated. We see what suits us, yes, but we also see what a person wants us to see. As humans, we all too often accept what is presented to us, satisfying ourselves with the answers to our paltry, “you’re okay, aren’t you?” Dismissing behaviour changes as stages a person might be going through, attributing it to what we know without seeking the answer to what we don’t. This was intelligent writing, skilful on a whole other level. I am still in awe.

‘The silent river waits to embrace her. With a deep breath, she dives out towards its centre. The cold water claims her. The shock is electric. It envelops her traitorous body. As she pushes for the surface, she feels her wild, beating heart, her breath rising hot and urgent in her throat, her undeniable, incredible aliveness. She floats on the surface of the river and experiences a certain peace. She feels herself connected to the flow of life all around. Here I am, she thinks. Here I am.’

This is a story about a fractured family. There is still love, but there is anger and pain too. Blame as well. And so much misunderstanding. The characters were all fabulously crafted, authentically flawed, each with something about them that we were inclined to dislike, be it questionable morals, a tendency towards selfishness, self-sabotage, or ignorance to the effect of one’s own actions. I had a problem with each character at some point in time throughout the novel, but these flaws were balanced, as they are within humans, and so too did I accept them within these characters and move on. Hannah Richell appears to have an intimate understanding of human nature and the ability to articulate it through her characters, gifting us with these pop-up human beings on paper, people we become invested in and deeply attached to.

‘For too many years, this river has been a place of pain. Yet is also a place of joy. Perhaps, this place – this silent river – is all of these things. Or perhaps it is none. Perhaps it just is. Margot understands now that what she has been frightened of facing is not her mother’s studio, nor the river, nor Windfalls but the hurt place inside of her – the dark wound she has carried for so long. This is what Lucy has been asking her to confront. Joy. Pain. Life. Death. Each casts the other in sharp relief.’

The River Home is fiction at its best. There is nothing light and fluffy here, it is at times incredibly hard to get through without crying. But it’s so worth it. After I finished reading, at 1am, I just sat there for about ten minutes, feeling the weight of the story and contemplating the path each of the characters had walked. This novel is haunting; brutally beautiful and the very best that fiction can be.


Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing me with a review copy of The River Home.

About the Author:

Hannah Richell was born in Kent and spent her childhood years in Buckinghamshire and Canada. After graduating from the University of Nottingham she worked in the book publishing and film industries in both London and Sydney. She is a dual citizen of Great Britain and Australia and currently lives the South West of England with her family. Hannah is the author of international bestsellers Secrets of the Tides and The Shadow Year. The Peacock Summer is her third novel. Her books have been translated into fourteen languages.

The River Home
Published by Hachette Australia
Released 25th February 2020

10 thoughts on “Book Review: The River Home by Hannah Richell

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s