The House of Tides


By Hannah Richell

Formats and Prices




$11.99 CAD



  1. ebook $8.99 $11.99 CAD
  2. Trade Paperback $15.00 $17.00 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around July 16, 2013. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

A sweeping and resonant novel about a British family’s long-held secrets, for anyone who loved the drama of Rosamunde Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers or the lush settings of Kate Morton’s novels.

The Tides are a family with many secrets. Haunted by the events of one tragic day a decade ago, they are each, in their own way, struggling to move forward with their lives.

There is Dora, the family’s youngest daughter, who lives in a ramshackle London warehouse with her artist boyfriend. She is doing a good job of skating across the surface of her life, but when she discovers she is pregnant, she finds herself staring back at the darkness of a long-held guilt. Dora’s mother, Helen, is a complicated woman whose relationship with her family has always been turbulent, while her father Richard has cobbled together a life that bears little resemblance to his boyhood dreams. And Cassie, Dora’s long-estranged sister, has cut off her family entirely, it seems.

When Dora arrives at Clifftops, her family’s rambling home on the Dorset coast, it seems that Helen might finally be ready to make amends for her own part in the tragedy. But what Dora soon discovers is that the path to redemption does not rest solely with her mother. Can family crimes this damaging ever really be forgiven?



My heartfelt thanks to über agent Sarah Lutyens and the wonderful team at Lutyens & Rubinstein; Kate Mills, Lisa Milton, Susan Lamb, Jemima Forrester, Vanessa Radnidge, Fiona Hazard, Matt Hoy, Emily Griffin, and all the other many talented people at Orion, Hachette Australia, and Grand Central Publishing who have worked on this book.

I owe special thanks to my sister, Jessica, for reading the manuscript more times than any sane person should have to and for always finding the gentlest and funniest ways to point out its flaws, Mari Evans for her early encouragement and advice, and Ilde Naismith-Beeley for the frequent injections of coffee and positivity.

I never would have begun writing without the support and patience of my family and friends, both near and far, and in particular Matt, Jude, and Gracie. Thank you. This book is dedicated to you, with love.

Fever of the heart and brain,

Sorrow, pestilence, and pain,

Moans of anguish, maniac laughter,

All the evils that hereafter

Shall afflict and vex mankind,

All into the air have risen

From the chambers of their prison;

Only Hope remains behind.

—From "The Masque of Pandora"
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


A half-empty train rattles through fields and farmland toward the gray concrete sprawl of the city. There is a young woman huddled in the farthest corner of the last carriage. Her hair is like a veil, hiding her tears. In her pocket is an antique brooch. Her fingers brush its cold arc before flipping it over and over in time to the rhythmic clatter of wheels on track. When she can resist no longer, she releases the clasp and stabs the pin deep into the flesh of her palm.

It's agony, but she won't stop. She presses the needle deeper still, until warm blood streams down her wrist and splashes crimson onto the carriage floor.

Finally, the train jerks and slows. Brakes squeal.

As they reach their destination she pushes the bloodied brooch deep into her coat pocket, grabs her bag, and then drops down onto the platform.

People dart about her. Two women shriek and embrace. A tall man in a turban races for the ticket barriers. A spotty teenager hops from foot to foot, gazing up at the departures board as he shovels crisps into his mouth. Everything around her seems to buzz and hum while she just stands there on the platform, a single fixed point, breathing deeply.

Signs for the Underground point one way but she ignores them, hefting her bag onto her shoulder and making for the street exit. She strikes out across a busy pedestrian crossing and turns left for the bridge. Big Ben looms in the distance; it is three minutes to twelve.

She walks with purpose; she knows where she is going and what has to be done. But then she sees the river, and the sight of it, a shifting black mass carving its way through the city, makes her shudder. Whenever she's imagined this moment the water has been gray and flat, not dark and viscous like seeping oil. But it doesn't matter now. There is no going back.

She stops halfway across the bridge and leans her rucksack up against the wall. Then, with a quick glance about, she scoots up and over the barrier until she is clinging to the other side of the balustrade.

The toes of her shoes balance precariously on the concrete ledge. She grips the wall, wincing as her bleeding palms scrape the stone, and then twists so that she is facing the water below. The wind blows her hair, whipping it across her face and stinging her eyes until hot tears form. She blinks them back.

"Hey!" She hears a cry behind her. "Hey, what are you doing?"

She is out of time.

She locks her gaze on a sea of gray buildings on the far horizon and, with a final breath, lets go of the balustrade. Then she is falling, falling, falling.

Any breath left in her body is punched out by the ice-cold water. She fights the urge to kick and struggle, instead surrendering herself to the inky blackness, letting the weight of her clothes take her stone-like toward the bottom.

By the time Big Ben chimes midday she is gone, lost to the murky depths below.

Chapter 1


Present Day

It is late when Dora arrives home. She lets herself in through the heavy metal door of the old button factory and climbs the three flights of stairs to her flat. The stairwell is cold and gloomy, but as her key turns in the door she hears music playing and the welcoming sound of saucepans and cutlery clattering from deep within the kitchen.

"Babe, I'm back," she calls out, slipping off her killer shoes and kicking them into an ever-growing pile of footwear by the front door. A wet nose and huge brown eyes appear from behind the shabby leather sofa, followed by a long wagging tail. "Hello, Gormley," she says, giving the dog an affectionate pat on the rump. "Busy day?"

Dan's chocolate-brown Labrador wags his tail again, yawns, and slinks back into the lounge.

"Don't come into the kitchen," she hears Dan yell. "I'm cooking…something experimental…very Blumenthal…you're going to love it."

Dora smiles; they both know Dan doesn't cook. She rifles through the post on the table by the door, nothing but bills. "I didn't think we had any food?" she asks suspiciously.

"Er…we didn't. Oh shit!" There's the sound of something smashing.

"You went shopping?"

"Sort of. Just don't come in yet; it's nearly ready."

Dora walks into the living space, a large, white open-plan room flanked by floor-to-ceiling windows on opposite sides. As she moves through the room she startles at a movement out of the corner of her eye, but calms as she realizes it's just her own pale reflection in the windows; she's feeling jumpy. Obediently she remains in the room, switching on a couple of lamps, returning a few of Dan's splayed art books to the shelves next to the television. Gormley is already curled up on his bed next to the sofa, one eye lazily tracking her movements. Dora looks around at the room, wondering when it will ever really feel like their place. It's been six months and they've barely scratched the surface of the enormous project they took on. The exposed brick walls have been painted white and the floorboards sanded and polished. It's clean and spacious, but it feels a little like an exhibition space waiting to be filled. They just haven't had the time to turn it into a home; it's been one thing after another.

"Right, you can come in now," she hears Dan shout.

Dora pushes the door to the kitchen; it sticks momentarily on the torn lino until she gives it a firm shove with her shoulder and it flies open with a bang.

Dan is standing by the wonky trestle table currently masquerading as their kitchen table. He indicates with a flourish two steaming bowls of tomato soup and a plate of buttered white sliced bread. She can see the open soup tin on the counter behind him. She walks across and puts her arms around his neck, kissing his stubbly chin.

"That's the nicest thing I've seen all day."

"That bad, huh? How did the presentation go?"

Dora shrugs. "Hard to tell; the clients weren't giving much away."

"But your boss was pleased?"

"I think so. He'll be more pleased if we sign them. It would be a real coup for the agency—good for me too," she adds, "as I'd be on the account."

Dan releases her from his big embrace and ushers her to the table. "Come on, let's eat before it gets cold."

Dora seats herself at the table and reaches for a slice of bread. "Thanks for this."

"It's nothing, really." He pushes a mug of tea toward her. "Are you okay? You look a little pale."

"I'm fine; it's just been a really long day. I'm tired."

He gazes at her with concern. "You're working too hard."

"I'm fine," she says again, with a shrug. "Anyway, how was your day?" she asks, steering the conversation away from her. "Did you get much done?"

It's as if someone has switched a light on in Dan's face. "It was terrific. I had a huge breakthrough. I know exactly what my next piece is going to be. And Kate Grimshaw rang me back to confirm her order for three of the sculptures from my showcase, so I'm certainly going to be busy over the next few months."

"That's great!" Dora raises her mug, and he clinks his against it. "Really, it's wonderful news." They both know Dan has been waiting for inspiration to strike. His last set of bronze sculptures showed at a tiny London gallery and were picked up by a noted art collector, but ever since he's been struggling with the pressures of following up with something better. Dora knows he's been privately agonizing over the delay, so it's a relief to hear he has, at last, found a project he's excited about. "Do you want to tell me about the new piece?"

Dan shakes his head. "Sorry, not this one. It's a surprise."

"Intriguing. I take it the back room is out of bounds for now then?"

"Yes, and it's a studio, remember, not a back room?"

She smiles down into her bowl and they fall into a comfortable silence, slurping at their soup until they are both staring down at empty dishes.

"I'll wash up," she offers.

"Just a minute. I got you these," he says, holding out two brown capsules in the palm of his hand.

"What are they?" she asks, prodding them with suspicion. "They look like horse tranquilizers."

"Vitamins. Mrs. Singh at the corner shop says you should start taking them." He beams up at her and Dora takes them from his outstretched hand, placing them next to her empty bowl.

"Thanks," she says, wondering how many people he has already blabbed the news to. They really do need to talk. Not now, though, not when he's so happy about his work. It can wait.


She wakes later that night to the sound of rain drumming on the roof above their bed and Dan scuttling around the room in a panic.

"Do you need a hand?" she asks, propping herself up on one elbow in the darkness.

"No, stay there where it's warm. I'm fine." She hears him trip over a saucepan and the sound of water splashing across the floor. "Effing-useless roof."

She smiles in the darkness and listens as he artfully rearranges the carefully cultivated collection of bowls and pans until the sound of water dripping on tin begins to mingle with the noise of the rain outside.

"It will be summer soon," she tries cheerfully.

"Hmmm…" is all he says, which worries her. He is usually the optimistic one. The agent who had shown them around the crumbling old factory had proudly declared the space a "New York–style loft apartment," but they had all known it was marketing flannel. Really they were standing in the dingy and dilapidated top floor of an old East End factory. It had potential, and could provide Dan with the work space he needed to create his massive bronze sculptures, but it was still a long way from the beautiful, contemporary home Dora had transformed it into in her mind's eye when they had first looked around. The reality was harder to live with, and ever since they bought the old place it has been Dan who's reassured her through her worries about rotten floorboards, leaky plumbing, and the holes in the roof.

"Come back to bed. We'll deal with it in the morning," she tries.

"We've been saying that for five months."

"I know. But we will, okay?"

Dan gives up and dives under the covers, rubbing his cold feet against hers until she yelps. "Sorry, you're just so lovely and warm."

She turns her back on him and nestles into the reassuring curve of his body. They are two proverbial spoons. His arms slide around her waist and his hands, rough and strong, come to rest on her stomach. She can feel his breath slow against her neck and realizes he is already drifting off. She envies him his ability to fall asleep so easily. She hasn't been able to sleep like that for a very long time, and now that she is awake, her mind is suddenly buzzing.

First she is reliving the Sunrise Cereals pitch at work. She had thought it went well, but now lying there in the darkness, listening to the rain, she starts to wonder. She knows if she starts to mull over it she will be awake for hours, so instead she tries to concentrate on relaxing her toes, like those self-help books say to do when you can't sleep. Start at your toes and work your way up your legs, relaxing each part of your body in turn. By the time you get to your nose you're guaranteed to be asleep. She's sure she's heard that somewhere.

But she has only reached her knees, which prove very difficult to focus on, let alone relax, when Dora feels a cold, creeping panic trickling up from her guts. It's been the same thing the last few nights: a chilling grip on her insides and the sudden, overwhelming sensation of the breath being squeezed from her body, as if something heavy is lying on top of her, crushing her into the mattress. Dora's heart begins to thud wildly in her rib cage.

"Dan?" she says into the darkness.

There is no answer but the drumming of the rain and the loud beating of her heart.

"Dan, are you awake?" She nudges him.

"Mmmmm…," he groans. "No."

"We need to talk." She can't bear to lie there alone a second longer.

Dan's arms tighten around her waist. "Go to sleep. We'll sort the roof in the morning."

"It's not the roof I want to talk about." She swallows down the acid taste in her mouth. "It's the…the baby."

She can feel his arms stiffen slightly and his breath pause momentarily against her neck. "What about the baby?" he murmurs.

"I think we need to talk about it."

"Right now?"


Dan raises himself up on one elbow in the dark and looks at her. "What's up?"

She takes a deep breath and tries to control her trembling limbs. "It's like we're just drifting along, out of control, letting life wash over us. I think we should decide whether we actually want this or not. It's such a huge responsibility, having a baby. What I mean is, how can we even think about raising a child when we don't even have a dry place to live?" Dora can hear the hysterical edge in her voice.

Dan is quiet for a moment. "We'll get the flat sorted. Don't worry. These new commissions will help the cash flow. Now it's spring we can get the roof fixed, and then we'll tackle the kitchen and the bathroom. After that it's just cosmetic stuff." He stifles a yawn. "We always knew this place was going to be a long-term project. I thought you were up for it?"

"I was, I mean, I am," she corrects. "This isn't about the flat. Not really. I mean, it is, but it's more than that." She swallows. "Don't you ever wonder if you're ready to be a parent?"

Silence fills the room.

"I'm not sure," she continues in a small voice, "if I want to be a mother. It's such a responsibility. We wouldn't be a couple anymore. We'd be…a family."

Dan sighs. "I'm sure every new parent feels this way, Dora. It's perfectly natural. I know it wasn't planned"—he gives another yawn—"but it's exciting, don't you think? A family." He pauses for a moment. "That sounds good to me."

Dora shifts slightly in his arms, turning to stare at the emptiness above their heads. Things are always more simple for Dan. He isn't weighed down by baggage or tortured by his past. That's what she loves about him. But her life isn't as straightforward as his. It isn't black and white. It's shades of gray, like a storm-cloud oil painting hanging above a fireplace. How could a man like Dan, a man with lightness in his heart and a confidence in the future, understand what she feels?

"Dora, is this about your family?"

She nods in the darkness but cannot speak.

"I know it was terrible. I know, from the little you've talked about, that you still live with it. Believe me, Dora, I want to understand. I really do."

She lies very still.

"But this is a chance for you to move on, don't you see?" She can feel his grip tighten around her waist and his hands stroke her stomach with gentle, reassuring movements. "It's a new life…a new start…us and our baby. We'll be our very own family. Don't you want that?"

Dora doesn't know what to say. Of course she wants a life with Dan. She loves him and their life together in London. He is her rock. And yet, at the same time, she is utterly paralyzed. Years have passed and yet she still feels like the same girl she was all those years ago. Nothing has changed, not really. How can she even consider the enormous responsibility of motherhood when she has proved so catastrophically irresponsible in the past? And how can she contemplate starting a family of her own when the one she grew up in—the one she thought would be there for her forever—has been torn apart so completely? The truth is that she doesn't know if she deserves a family of her own. She doesn't deserve a fresh start with Dan. She doesn't deserve happiness. But how can she tell him that?

"Go to sleep," Dan murmurs into her neck. "Everything always seems worse at night. We'll talk tomorrow." His grip loosens on her slightly, and she can tell that she is losing him to sleep again. "You'll feel better in the morning," he whispers.

"Night," she says before turning in his arms to gaze into the blackness of the bedroom. Dan is wrong. She knows she won't feel better in the morning. She has spent the last ten years willing each morning to be better…to feel better. And each morning she awakens to the sickening knowledge that she is to blame for the disintegration of her family. She feels, sometimes, as though they've all abandoned her, as though she's been cut loose and left to drift through life on her own. But then she remembers she is to blame for that. It is her fault they have been scattered like the floating debris from a shipwreck. She feels the guilt of it like a deep, throbbing pain.

As Dan begins to gently snore, Dora closes her eyes. She wants sleep to claim her too, but she knows it is a long way off. Instead, she lets her mind wander down the pathways of her past. Slowly, it drifts down a wide tree-lined drive. She can almost hear the wind rushing through the tall sycamore trees and smell the salt carried on the breeze. She rounds a corner in her mind and there it is, a rambling old farmhouse standing high upon the Dorset cliffs, its whitewashed walls gleaming like a beacon in the sunshine. As she draws closer she sees the tangle of ivy creeping up its exterior, curling around the eaves of the gray slate roof. She drifts closer still and sees the solid oak front door, bleached with weather and age. She pushes on the door, the warm smooth wood familiar under her fingers, and enters a hallway, cool and dark and haunted with the footsteps of a generation of Tides. She walks past an open door, ignoring the elegant dark-haired woman bent over a desk of books and papers. She turns away from the sound of giggles echoing down the creaking staircase and passes a handsome, fair-haired man seated in the drawing room peering at the newspaper spread across his lap. Instead she makes for the conservatory where the scent of roses and lilacs wafts enticingly through the open doors. Drifting through, she wanders down the sprawling lawn toward the siren's song of the sea, crashing far away onto the cliffs below.

As she reaches a twisted old cherry tree down in the orchard she turns and studies the house, gazing up at the wide sash windows. She stares at them, searching for answers deep within their shadows, but the glass is blackened by the glare of the sun.

Clifftops. The house she once called home.

Dan shifts and sighs in his sleep and as Dora moves her hands onto her still-flat belly and contemplates her future, she suddenly understands. She cannot hide any longer. She must return to Clifftops.

Chapter 2


Sixteen Years Earlier

Helen stood in the hallway and surveyed the ever-growing pile of suitcases, bags, shoes, and coats. It would be just fine by her if someone decided to cancel Easter. The packing was bad enough. There were the piles of washing to sort through, a fridge to clear, the airing cupboard to dig around in for long-lost beach towels, and then the challenge of squashing everything into the groaning trunk of the car. Add to that the fact that Richard was still sitting in the study on a last-minute work phone call and it was enough to make Helen want to scream long and loudly at someone.

She entered the kitchen to empty the trash and found Dora sitting at the kitchen table gazing dreamily into the garden over her bowl of cereal.

"You're not still eating those cornflakes, are you?" she asked as she wrestled with the overflowing garbage bag.


"Well, hurry up," she said, finally pulling the bag from its holder and tying it off. "I need to get the dishwasher on."

Dora nodded and raised a token spoonful of cereal to her lips. Satisfied, Helen left the room and went to find Cassie. She'd assumed she was upstairs packing but when she finally came upon her, she found her elder daughter sprawled across her bed, half dressed and reading a paperback while she sucked lazily on the ends of her hair. It was the final straw.

"I thought I told you we had to be on the road by ten?" Helen yelled. "We're going to get stuck in traffic." She looked around at Cassie's messy room in exasperation. "And didn't I ask you to tidy this up last night? You haven't even started to pack!"

"Relax, Mum. It'll take me five minutes. I really don't know what the big deal is. It's just a week at Nana and Granddad's. You and Dad are acting like we're going on some polar expedition!"

Sarcasm, that was new. Helen saw Cassie's eyes flick back to the book in her hands and had to resist the urge to fly across the room and hurl it out of the bedroom window. Instead she took a deep breath and counted to three. At eleven, Cassie was a bright girl, and she already knew how to push her buttons.

"Well, I'm not going to ask you again," Helen warned as she left the room. It was a weak parting shot, but she couldn't think of anything better to threaten her with; as attractive as the thought was, they couldn't exactly leave her behind.

She closed the door on Cassie and retreated down the corridor to her own bedroom. A battered old suitcase lay open on the bed. She still needed to decide whether to pack a dress or another pair of trousers. Trousers would be more practical, but she knew her mother-in-law expected them all to make an effort on Easter Sunday. Helen eyed a green silk dress hanging in the closet, then a pair of black cords, before caving in and placing the dress on top of the growing pile of clothes. She could at least attempt to keep the peace with Daphne this year.

"That's nice; have I seen it before?" Richard asked, entering the room and glancing at the dress now lying on top of the open suitcase.

Helen rolled her eyes. "Only about a million times."


On Sale
Jul 16, 2013
Page Count
400 pages

Hannah Richell

About the Author

Hannah Richell was born in England. After graduating from the University of Nottingham, she worked in the book publishing and film industries. She now lives with her husband and two young children in Sydney, Australia.

Learn more about this author