‘She fancied herself part of a timeless chain without beginning or end, linked only by the silver strong words of its tellers.’
The Tides Between is a YA novel by Elizabeth Jane Corbett set in the 1841, a time when emigration was the only choice for many.
Bridie Stewart is fifteen-years of age. As she boards the ship that takes herself and her family to Australia, Bridie can only think of her father, who has passed away and the fact that she is leaving him behind. She clings to a book that was once his, full of all the memories that she cherishes and holds dear to her heart.
The Tides Between is Bridie’s story…..
The Tides Between is a coming of age novel set in a time of change and upheaval. Young Bridie Stewart is to set sail to Port Philip in Australia from London. Now eighteen months after the death of her beloved father, Bridie’s mother has married Alf Bustle. Bridie does not like Alf. He is nothing like her father, who was a creator of words and stories, a man who believed in the magic of fairy-tales and passed this vivid imagination unto Bridie. Her mother has no time for any of this nonsense and blames Bridie’s father for the life they lived before his untimely death. He was a romantic, a dreamer, a performer but he was not a monied man. Life for Bridie’s mother was hard but now she is looking forward to a new start, a new adventure on the other side of the world.
Bridie is a teenager and like any young girl of this age she is hormonal and quick to anger. It is quite clear that Bridie want’s no part in this journey and it is also quite clear that she is very angry with her mother for moving on so fast. In Bridie’s mind her mother now hates her father and Bridie finds it very hard to move beyond this. Her behaviour could be looked upon at times as quite sullen and spoilt, as she disagrees with everything happening around her. She clings to a leather-bound book that was left to her by her father and this is the only thing that makes her happy. Contained in this book is a collection of stories and words filled with magic and written by the fair hand of her father. It’s the only item on board the ship that Bridie holds dear.
The depiction of the voyage is so vividly portrayed by the author that I was almost able to smell the salt from the ocean and the stench from the hold. The journey across the high seas on the Lady Sophia was a traumatic experience for many on board as sea-sickness, disease and confinement became the norm.
For Bridie it was to be her transformation from teenager to young lady. Soon exposed to scenes of families been destroyed, as death visits the ship and with a less than helpful Doctor on board, Bridie bears witness to medical emergencies and sorrow that no girl her age should have to see.
But for Bridie her one saviour is Rhys, a troubled young Welsh man who is making the journey with his young wife, Sian. For Rhys is also leaving the familiarity of the Welsh hills behind and starting a new journey, where he hopes to live a more peaceful existence away from the pressures and strains of life with his family of miners in Wales. Rhys, like Bridie, is a dreamer, and Bridie finds great comfort spending time in his company.
The Tides Between contains the thoughts and actions of a fifteen-year-old girl whose life has been uprooted and who has been removed from everything she holds dear. She is angry with her mother, like many adolescent girls and, at times, can come across as quite selfish and mean spirited, especially toward Alf, her stepfather. It is her special relationship with Rhys, as he encourages her love of mysticism, that helps Bridie come to terms with her new life. In a way they help each other…..
The Tides Between is a novel targeted at the young adult market. It is a very insightful, historical portrayal of life in steerage during those years of horrendous ocean crossings for many of the working class folk. At times bleak, at times sorrowful The Tides Between is also full of hope and new beginnings. It is a novel that could be very interesting, from an educational perspective, as part of the history curriculum in schools. It brings the sights and sounds, the hardships and realities of 19th century emigration into the 21st century.
Expressive and charged with atmosphere, The Tides Between is a book I recommend to the younger generation. It’s the perfect reality-check for them to understand how lucky many of them now are…
(c) Swirl and Thread
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