Lake of Echoes by Liza Perrat

Can it really be two years since I reviewed The Lost Blackbird by Liza Perrat? Yes, it seems it is. But the two years were worth it because they gave her time to write Lake of Echoes. When you find a first class writer who is new to you, you know that the only thing you can expect is improvement. The next book will be better, and the one after that will be better still. And so it has proved. Lake of Echoes, like The Lost Blackbird, is historical fiction. What I want from historical fiction is that the writer should not just show me what happened sometime in the past but should make me feel I’m there and I understand why. Liza Perrat does that. Years ago, on one of many cycling holidays in la France profonde, I found myself in a village deep in the French countryside and with a strong sense that in such places no-one looks at you – but everyone knows what you do. At the time, it made me shiver. I had that sense again with this book. The author understands the people she writes about. She knows the currents in small French villages. She can get into the minds, not just of “normal” people (whatever they are) but also of the slightly crazed and the totally barmy. And she presents all this in a harrowing tale of abducted children. Every parent’s nightmare – something that rips apart not just communities but also marriages. Something that promotes gossip and spite as well as the desire to help. But never at any point do you feel any wish to stop reading. It’s a tour de force by an Australian woman who has lived in France for twenty years, raised a family there, and knows the place backwards. She is also one of the English language’s most accomplished writers. Strongly recommended.

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