I’ve always found the 1930s fascinating- a glamorous world on the cusp of irreversible change and the lives of people unwillingly hurtling towards that change always makes for fascinating reading. This book is a story of people on a life-changing journey: physically, as they leave for Australia for new lives and metaphorically, as war looms and follows them wherever they go.
Lily, a young woman travelling on an assisted passage ticket, is leaving her life as a waitress and her secrets behind in a bid to start a new life in a strange on the other side of the world. As she becomes used to life on-board the ship, the old ways of class and privilege become blurred and allow Lily to socialise with people who would not usually give her the time of day. She becomes embroiled in scandal, love affairs and a mysterious disappearance during the course of the voyage, as well as confronting her past and the realities of her future.
The characters are relatable, yet somewhat unpredictable; there was a point about halfway through where I gasped when I suddenly realised that one character was not at all who I thought he was, although I was not entirely sure until the end what that meant. The novel is full of things you think you know with certainty, only to suddenly find the rug very cleverly and swiftly pulled from beneath your feet. I loved not being able to predict the who/what/when/where/how of this book. It really is stellar writing and not at all what I was expecting (I think I was ready for a Poirot-esque drawing room mystery on a ship…) Imagine a Golden Age of crime story, but brought up to date for an audience hooked on tense thrillers and you’ll have this book.
I loved this book whole-heartedly. Rachel Rhys is the alter-ego of Tamar Cohen, a writer whose dark psychological novels I have read and enjoyed. What amazes me is how effortlessly she has slipped into her Agatha Christie-esque other self; this really is like reading a completely different author and I enjoyed every second of reading it. I honestly didn’t want it to end. I am very jealous of those who have yet to read it.