Told in alternating voices between Polly during a sweltering summer of 2032 and Nellie in a chilly winter of 1952 this is the intertwined story of two young girls both dealing with major changes in their lives and the environments in which they live
Polly and her brother Joel are sent to stay with their beloved aunt who lives by a reservoir in the countryside during yet another record-breaking heatwave in 2032. Joel is being bullied at school and Polly’s best friend has fallen out with her so they are both glad to escape to the countryside.
Polly is not a strong swimmer but is drawn towards the reservoir and the story of the drowned village which is becoming uncovered in the drought. She dives in and realises she is standing on the roof of the drowned church. She finds a mysterious door handle which appears to have the ability to transport her back in time to 1952 where the village is on the brink of becoming flooded to create a reservoir. There she becomes Nellie, an orphan taken in by Ma Blackwell who looks after patients recuperating from tuberculosis. In this strand, Nellie is a strong swimmer who has dreams of becoming a Channel Swimmer. She is firm friends with Lena who is also recovering from TB. It is Lena who helps Nellie hatch a daring plan to achieve her aims of swimming The Channel. Fast-forwarding to the future, Joel also has dreams of his own to go to Dance School.
This is a skilful and wonderfully woven tapestry of the interlinked lives of the two determined girls. The plot twists and tuns and there are many challenges and fears the girls need to face in their respective times yet there are plenty of parallels too. The whole village must move out to make way for a reservoir to service the townspeople and the future heatwave is having a devastating effect on the landscape and people.
As ever with Emma Carroll this is a beautifully written, compelling and thoughtful story which transports one back and forth in time so effortlessly and with a real sense of period and place. However, It is perhaps the strong friendships and loyalties that particularly come to the fore in this novel.