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Sunday 13 September 2020

‘The Storm’ by Amanda Jennings

Published by HarperCollins,
23 July 2020.
ISBN: 978-0-00-828706-1(PB)

Coercive control in marriage has been around for a long time, but it’s only recently that it has been designated a crime. That designation made it inevitable that accomplished writers would find a new twist on it in fiction, and so it is in Amanda Jennings’s latest dark psychological thriller.

Nathan Cardew is rich, sophisticated and good-looking: every woman’s dream, or so you’d think. But to his wife Hannah he’s a nightmare. She has no money, no driving licence, no passport; Nathan controls her every move, and her life is devoted to keeping him happy. Their son Alex, newly arrived at the teenage rebellion stage, urges her to resist; so does her only friend Vicky, who she meets under the radar. But Hannah hasn’t always been docile and submissive. In her youth she was fun-loving and feisty, and up for all kinds of mischief. 

So, what changed? Why did Hannah marry Nathan at all, when everyone thought she was in love with the town hunk, saturnine fisherman Cam Stewart, and he with her? And thereby hangs the mystery.

This gripping page-turner flips from one timeframe to another and shares the storytelling around several characters. We see Hannah’s life now, Nathan’s tight hold on both the purse-strings and her daily routine; and we flashback to a fateful few days sixteen years ago, and the events which culminated in tragedy and ultimately in her marriage to Nathan.

Both timelines take place in a small town on the Cornish coast, clearly an environment the author knows well. The busy pub, the windswept beach, the luxurious but bleak house which becomes Hannah’s home, even the overworked nursing home to which her infirm mother has been consigned (naturally, Nathan vetoed moving her in with them): all are portrayed with a sure hand, and woven seamlessly to provide exactly the right background for the narrative. 

The characters are the kind who seem to go on existing off the page; it’s easy to imagine straitlaced Nathan ruling the roost in his solicitor’s office, teenage Alex playing football with his mates, and boisterous Vicky bickering with her husband. Hannah’s life takes place right in front of our eyes: her compliance with Nathan’s iron control and small rebellions against it in the here-and-now, her sunny camaraderie with the young fishermen in the pub and the customers in her father’s bakery sixteen years ago.

Slowly the truth is revealed: what really happened on the night that turned Hannah’s life upside down. You’ll want to know, and you’ll ache to discover whether Hannah will go on submitting to Nathan or break out of the trap she is caught in when Cam returns. And I guarantee you won’t put the book down until you’ve finished the riveting account of a storm which threatens the survival of an entire fishing trawler crew. In The Storm Amanda Jennings has taken the elements of the psychological thriller and domestic noir, and woven them into an unputdownable story.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Amanda Jennings was born in London in 1973, and her family moved to a village in rural Berkshire when she was young. Unsure what career she wanted to pursue, she decided to follow in her architect mother’s footsteps and accepted a place to read architecture at Cambridge University, but it soon became clear it wasn’t for her and she changed course to History of Art – more writing, less physics! After university, she and a friend set up a company writing copy for small businesses, which paid just enough for rent and wine, but not quite enough for food. As fun as it was, a rethink was required when she fell pregnant. A few years later Amanda went to work at the BBC, but she missed looking after her daughter, and could no longer ignore her yearning to write. When she became pregnant with her second child, and encouraged by the success of a shortlisted sitcom script in a BBC writing competition, she took the opportunity to be at home with the children, grabbing every spare moment she could find to write. Sworn Secret, her first novel was published in the UK in August 2012. Her latest book is The Storm published in July 2020.  Amanda lives just outside Henley-on-Thames with her husband, three daughters

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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