This book first caught my eye because of the author’s last name, Anne Compton being the author of the award winning poetry collection Processional. After I read the synopsis though I knew this was a novel I had to read. Goose Lane has a history of putting out really good historical fiction and I am always especially interested in this genre when it is set in Atlantic Canada. Tide Road, Valerie Compton’s first novel, takes place over the course more than 60 years, mostly in rural eastern Prince Edward Island. This story really captures a time in Maritime life when things seemed to be much simpler. Compton has created a memorable cast of characters that indiscreetly grow on the reader.
This novel’s style and tone would probably be best described as subtle. The author uses punchy sentences, short chapters, and a non-linear timeline in her writing. Details are worked in so smoothly and the narration is so quiet that before you know it, the story of this tormented family is exposed and branded into your mind.
Tide Road revolves around Sonia, the matriarch of a large family. We accompany Sonia through her time as a lighthouse keeper, a new mother, a widow, and beyond. Sonia’s life is shrouded by the disappearance of her oldest daughter Stella and this underlies most of the narrative. Sonia is a tortured soul. Whether it is at the hands of her family, herself, or her past, Sonia seems to be confronted with some psychological trauma around every turn. She is a tough character but also very sympathetic.
This was the first historical novel set in PEI that I have read. Valerie Compton definitely knew her way around rural Island life during this period when she sat down to write this. The detail she gives on managing the lighthouse is really interesting. As a resident of this province, there was something very familiar in this book; yes, the times and technologies have changed but ultimately the relationships that people share in this type of place hasn’t really changed at all. Tide Road was a great read and Sonia will haunt you long after you put the book down. It comes out March 4 and you can pre-order here.