The Turning of the Tide

Written by Liz Shakespeare
Review by Liz Bryan

Set in 1870 Bideford, Devon, this is the story of a young mother, Selina Burman’s struggle to survive the shame and degredation of the Bideford Union Workhouse. She is to meet Dr Ackland, and her hopes for the future rise, but life is never that simple – especially in well-written fiction!

The author cleverly uses the facts of the period – newspaper cuttings, letters, photographs and census returns to bind the story together to create an absorbing and delightful (if occasionally harrowing because of the basis of real events) read.

The details in this novel are compelling for anyone interested in history, the little things that are often hidden in the background make this a believable, true to life read: the smells, the sounds, the sights – hob nailed boots, oil lamps. The feelings and ideals of the characters, too create that sense of reality in this beautifully written book; the sense of a desire for respectability, for looking neat, clean and tidy despite poverty and hardships is well portrayed.

Anyone who knows Bideford (I have spent many an enjoyable holiday there) will recognise the town, and the river Torridge, instantly. And perhaps recognise some of the history as well.

The cover of this novel is delightful, very fitting for the story, an excellent choice in my opinion – and an excellent book to read.

I believe this is Ms Shakespeare’s third novel; I will be seeking out her first two.