The Girl on the Cliff
Riley’s second novel uses a familiar but intriguing device in which secrets of long ago impact a love story today. Moving from Russia to Ireland to Switzerland, the story follows two families and touches on 100 years of European history. The dominant voice is that of Grania Ryan, a young Irish-American who runs home to her family in Ireland after a tragic breakup with her lover in New York. After Grania sees a young girl alone on a dangerous cliff, she learns that Aurora Lisle, eight years old, is dreaming of her dead mother.
Grania befriends the lonely child, but when she meets Aurora’s handsome father, and begins to spends at the Lisle manor, her own mother objects. Kathleen Ryan says association with the Lisles is unlucky. To prove it, she gives Grania letters written in 1914 by her great-grandmother Mary, a servant for a wealthy family. Although Mary’s story, which spans the First World War, explains her relationship to the Lisles, it ends with unanswered questions. Kathleen picks up the thread, revealing a Ryan tragedy, but the Lisles’ story remains a mystery. Years go by before Aurora finally weaves all the threads together so that both families can heal.
The Girl on the Cliff is a pleasantly old-fashioned novel featuring elegant houses, skeletons in closets, and low-key love stories. Recommended for those who enjoy novels that span several generations.