Thursday, 2 May 2013

Book review: Bay of Secrets by Rosanna Ley

My edition: Paperback, to be published on 9 May 2013 by Quercus, 560 pages.

Description: Spain, 1939. Following the wishes of her parents to keep her safe during the war, a young girl, Julia, enters a convent in Barcelona. Looking for a way to maintain her links to the outside world, she volunteers to help in a maternity clinic. But worrying adoption practices in the clinic force Sister Julia to decide how far she will go to help those placed in her care.

England, 2011. Six months after her parents' shocking death, 34-year-old journalist and jazz enthusiast Ruby Rae has finally found the strength to pack away their possessions and sell the family home. But as she does so, she unearths a devastating secret her parents, Vivien and Tom, had kept from her all her life.

Rating:

Review:

Bay of Secrets is a beautiful and intriguing novel that not only describes an excellent fictional setting but also enlightens the reader on the not often visited and heartbreaking topic of The Lost Children of Francoism.

Freelance journalist Ruby Rae is having a hard time dealing with the sudden death of her parents. When she finally goes back to Dorset to clean out the house she grew up in she finds a box tucked into one of the closets which contains some strange items and the find sets in motion a possibly even bigger change in Ruby's life as she discovers that her parents kept a huge secret from her that could turn everything she's known about herself upside down.

In alternating chapters the reader becomes acquainted with a girl living in Spain just before the height of the second world war. As her parents struggle to provide for the entire family and Julia seems the least likely of their three daughters to be married off she's instead sent off to a convent in Barcelona to become a nun. While initially Julie feels it's unfair that she's sentenced to a life without a husband or children she soon relishes in the serenity of the convent and slowly finds her way to God.

To connect with the outside world and to give something back to others she starts volunteering in a maternity clinic where she meets many distraught and confused mothers who, sometimes against their better judgement, give up their newly-born children for adoption in a faint attempt to give them a chance at a better life than what they could've provided themselves.

As soon as the adoptive storyline raised to the surface I assumed this novel to come together in a predictive manner, but the exact opposite was the case. With the introduction of Andrés into Ruby's life, the strands of the book actually moved in unexpected ways to tie the overall arc together, which kept it refreshing and engaging from a reader's point of view from start to finish.

Not only that but through the storyline of sister Julia I became aware of the "niños robados", or The Lost Children of Francoism, an integral part of Spanish history I was completely unfamiliar with before reading the novel. It is a horrifying and often heartbreaking piece of history which certainly should be more well-known and I am glad Bay of Secrets enlightened me on the topic. I can only hope that many more readers will not only relish in the well-written and engaging stories of Ruby, Andrés and sister Julia but they will also be educated by the historical aspects the novel brings.

On an unrelated side note: Much of the story takes place in the same location as recent hit ITV-drama Broadchurch and it was certainly refreshing to see the area in a whole new light, one not consumed by the murder of a child and the implications this terrible event brought upon the mostly innocent villagers.


Many thanks to Quercus for an advanced reader copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

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