The Hidden Years

Written by Rachel Hore
Review by Fiona Alison

The Hidden Years is a romantic dual-timeline saga, spanning the World War II years, and a few weeks in 1966. The main characters, Belle and Imogen, share a connection that the author keeps under wraps, offering an unforeseen last-minute reveal. The novel begins when Belle goes to see a musical duo at a local pub. The attraction, both emotional and physical, between her and guitarist, Gray, is immediate, but when the duo is invited to play at a pub in Cornwall, the second guitarist backs out due to other commitments. Belle and Gray head to Cornwall, to a large house which Gray visited the previous year. Silverwood, used as a private boys’ school during the war, is now a commune, housing a few typically Sixties hippies living off grid. As the newcomer and outsider, Belle finds herself caught amidst tension and resentment not apparent on the surface of this freedom-embracing lifestyle.

Imogen’s story is related in alternate chapters, by a Mrs. Kitto, who lives in a cottage on the Silverwood grounds. Her connection to Imogen is carefully concealed. Imogen’s romances with Ned, a teacher at the Silverwood school, and Oliver, the deputy head, are intertwined with her nursing training in Truro during the war, and complicated by Oliver’s personal obligation to serve his country.

Locations described in the novel are very familiar to this reader. I could visualize Falmouth, the Helford River estuary, Kynance Cove, and Truro with its exquisite cathedral, and the ruinous but necessary damage done to the pristine landscape during the D-Day landing preparations. Satisfying endings, diverse characters, and complex relationships with lovers and family are a few of the charms of this novel, set in one of England’s most lovely counties.