#PubDay Book Review | “Beyond the Wild River” by Sarah Maine

Posted Tuesday, 18 April, 2017 by jorielov , , , 2 Comments

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Acquired Book By: I received an enquiry from a publicist at Atria in regards to a novel of suspense by an author I had not yet heard of previously. What captured my attention about this release was the heart of the story itself and the way in which this felt like an Introspective Novel which is of particular interest in my reading life as I like seeking out the Literary novels which bespeak of digging a bit deeper than genre fiction and asking different kinds of questions on behalf of the readers who enjoy reading them. They genuinely get you thinking about the layers of the story and also, of the message within the fuller scope of what the author was attempting to present to you through the duration of the novel. I was keenly grateful I could receive a print ARC in order to read this ahead of publication.

I received a complimentary ARC copy of “Beyond the Wild River” direct from the publisher Atria (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Why I was keenly interested in this particular release:

One thing I truly appreciate is a wicked good novel of atmospheric suspense – which is a nod to my lifelong appreciation of Psychological Suspense films including those which were the founding entries which brought the Horror film genre to brilliant life. In other words, I grew up appreciating Alfred Hitchcock and his particular style of letting your imagination fill in the gaps between where his narrative lens left-off in such classics as: The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Lady Vanishes, North by Northwest, The Rope, Dial M for Murder and other such lovelies which truly knitted suspense into the cornerstone of the character’s journey. I specifically found his style of the craft to be a lead-in towards finding authors how convey the same appreciation for what he did in film.

A few years ago, I attempted to read my first Kate Morton novel (The Distant Hours) yet sadly never truly was able to attach myself into the story-line due to time constraints. Yet, in the beginning of her novel, I felt a kinetic energy of atmospheric beauty etching out of the narrative; both haunting and compelling all at once. There are other authors I’ve read and blogged about meeting here on Jorie Loves A Story, of whom write in a similar vein of interest – such as Kate Forsyth, M.J. Rose, Lena Coakley, Sarah E. Boucher, Richard Storry, Helene Wecker, Yangsze Choo, Edith Wharton and others of whom write in a particular style of evokes a certain layer of world-building through a Gothic-esque lens.

Whilst I continue to seek out stories which have this evocation, I am truly a Historical girl at heart – a realisation I discovered about myself as I became a book blogger, as until I blogged (in effect, journalled my reading life!) I hadn’t taken stock of which types of stories I lean towards to read moreso than others which happily enchant me as I meet them. Historical Fiction and all the lovely variants of it’s sub-genres have kept me entertained for the fullness of my reading life (ie. since I was a young girl!) due to how breath-taking Historicals can be penned! The eclipse of course to fully entreat into the historical past whilst following in the footsteps of characters so well conceived you feel as if you’ve slipped into their shoes and tackled living their life for a spell!

This particular novel felt it held enough Suspense threading through it to keep me on the pins of my nerves whilst the backdrop of moving between England and Canada would be a refreshing change in scenery! As I am oft wandering back through time periods and settings often visited; to where I like to switch things up a bit and go ‘somewhere’ new every once in awhile! I also felt it had an introspective vibe about it whilst attempting to pull out the human condition and psychological back-story of it’s lead characters who might not expect to be ‘caught’ at a fork in the road where they could chose which way they would go forward vs following an expected trajectory by someones choice.

As this is my first reading by the author, I was thankful to receive the ARC in which I had the joy of reading the Editor’s remarks on behalf of the author and of this story. I love receiving ARCs in that regard – for the little ‘extra’ insights into the author’s collective works or their initial debuts; it gives a sense of the author’s style but also, of their story’s heart. I also like seeing how each Editor in turn chooses to highlight what they feel is the core of the author’s message for the story at hand. I had to smirk to myself realising I had mentioned my personal love of Hitchcock when I was reading a direct reference to him in this Editor’s Note! Laughs. Sometimes I find there are happy coincidences and moments of quirky connections as I read and blog my reading life; this is surely one of them! I was keenly right about this being introspective – as there is a hint of a nod towards how this novel is both figuratively poignant as much as it is metaphorical; for me, that’s the baseline of a wicked good literary novel!

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#PubDay Book Review | “Beyond the Wild River” by Sarah MaineBeyond the Wild River

The day comes sooner than expected when Charles, prompted by a near-scandal between Evelyn and a servant, brings her on a business trip to New York City and the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. Evelyn welcomes the chance to escape her cloistered life and see the world.

But a fishing expedition up the Nipigon River in Canada takes an unexpected turn when Evelyn discovers that their river guide is none other than James Douglas. Even more startling, her father betrays no shock, simply instructing Evelyn not to reveal their past connection with James to the rest of their party.

Evelyn never believed that James was guilty, but speculation about her father’s role in the killing has made her fearful. What is he hiding? As they travel deeper into the wilderness, and further from the constraints of polite society, the secrets and lies surrounding that night are finally stripped away, revealing the true natures of everyone in their party.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

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ISBN: 9781501126956

on 18th April, 2017

Pages: 352

Published By: Atria ()
{imprint of} Simon & Schuster (

Converse via: #BeyondTheWildRiver
Available Formats: Hardback and E-Book

About Sarah Maine

Sarah Maine Photo Credit Susie McDonald at Brick Lane Studio

Sarah Maine was born in England but grew up partly in Canada before returning to the United Kingdom, where she now lives. She is the author of The House Between Tides.

Photo Credit: Susie McDonald at Brick Lane Studio

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My Review of beyond the wild river:

Maine begins her story with a curious question of thought especially on behalf of why someone would intend to cause harm and why the person whose on the scene cannot fathom the reasoning of those actions being taken. It’s the kind of opening that lingers in mind as you start to settle into the story-line; wondering about the event which took place but more to the point, of the reasons behind it. Why did that singular event cause the changes in one man’s life and why did this man feel he could not stay but had to flee if he wanted to stay alive? Why indeed!

We shift forward and away from the scene of the crime – taken a few years forward and arrive in Chicago; wherein Maine cleverly speaks about the city’s history as the White City. This has become a popular theme in recent years, as I have read several authors’ take on how Chicago is truly a beguiling city in which to place one’s story. It is here where Evelyn rendezvouses with her dear friend Clementina, sent by her father to keep watch over her and possibly influence her into better behaviour. Ahead of her friend’s arrival we see a short bit about how Evelyn and her father do not get on with each other very well; most of it hinging to a meeting she had with someone below her station and of her father’s reaction to the meeting. Although the main reason they are both in America is she was meant to accompany her father on his business trip and not be left back home without his constant knowledge of her whereabouts. Evelyn was a young girl of nineteen but instead of feeling independent, she felt quite cornered by her father’s expectations, society’s demands for a woman of her station and the longing of doing something ‘outside’ of the regular routine which was suffocating her slowly.

Whilst travelling, you could sense Evelyn was hoping to have an adventure – something she could hold onto and find a reason for the droll boredom which enveloped her so dearly back home. To get away from Scotland had first been a blessing but as the hours trolled forward, she was once again reminded that everything in her life revolved around her father’s wishes and never her own. She was not to share her mind nor her interests – they would fall on deaf eyes even if she tried. This I think was the most infuriating obstacle she had; to be of an independent spirit and find that due to her birthright she was unable to shake free of what was expected and this included a well matched marriage like her friend Clementina.

Mr Larsen was her father’s business companion on the trip but a wise owl of observational insight as he culled together a bit more truth out of the circumstances surrounding Evelyn and her father’s issues with one another. He had been privy to the event in which Evelyn walked out with James (a groom at her father’s stables; the same bloke mentioned in the Prologue on having witnessed a crime) to talk to a potential friend when her father had presumed the worst, separated the two by dismissing him out of hand of his employ and conniving this expedition to draw her away from suitors he would not believe fit for his daughter’s hand. Yet it is Mr Larsen who sees a bit past this fatherly protectorate behaviour and roots out the greater truth is that the father doesn’t trust too many people; either for his daughter’s sake or his own. He’s a private man who cloisters his emotions and his opinions behind a shroud of secrecy. How he reveals anything is a wonder, as he has a fierce temperament to boot.

Evelyn contemplated the wider scope of the World’s Fair almost immediately after arriving – was it right for people to be on exhibit such as they were and treated in the manner in which the onlookers made the exhibitors feel like whilst they strolled past? Her presumption of how she’d feel attending the World’s Fair was dimmed by the reality of what the Fair was for those who were behind the scenes. She hadn’t realised the whole affair was a presentation of sorts; of a perceived reality that many never bothered to look past the surface and of the illusion of how the whole Fair itself was nothing more than a temporary apparition which would be destroyed as soon as the Fair ended. Nothing was permanent and in many regards, most of what was seen was not entirely true to reality either. Despite the gaps in her education, Evelyn had a strong mind and one that was not easily conformed to what others wished were her own views. She’d rather claim her own opinions than to dismiss anyone out of hand. This was only one instance in where she greatly differed from her father, who measured everyone against his own line of acceptance based on rules of society and of wealth.

The story shifts back to James – how different his life has become now that he’s taken to surviving by his wits and forming an alliance with a bloke of morals not necessarily his own. They met whilst thieving to survive another night; James having found a threadbare blanket and a small bit of a coin before this new friend of his attempted to take his life ahead of realising how young James truly was in the scheme of it all. They had stuck together after that, providing for each other and bound together in the hopes of standing on more solid ground. This shift back to James was slightly abrupt as I was surprised it occurred right in the middle of where Evelyn was piecing together more truths about her life and those around her; where the idea of hunting for sport spoiled her appetite and how she could not understand why people hunted without the purpose of seeking food or anything else necessary for the outing. She was torn between tradition (ie. the sport of fox hunting and the like) and the realisation that she did not agree with the argument that hunting could be constructive sport for those who enjoy the hunt and the kill. To her, it was unnecessary and a lack of respect for the animal(s).

We are given more details about James’ life on the estate where the novel begins but for all the details given, more questions arise in your mind – as what was truly going on between Evelyn’s father and James? And, why was James the center of attention when there were other things happening on the estate that mattered more? It almost felt like James was caught betwixt and between things which had nothing to do with him, except for his connection to Jacko. Part of what seemed to be the issue is how Evelyn’s father tried to intercede of James’s life by encouraging him to work honestly and do learn a trade he could bank on without breaking the law. In some ways, I wonder if her father felt James had betrayed his newfound trust by being across the river when Jacko was shot? If somehow, the redemption he had earned as a lad was somehow demateralised in that one moment of where James saw an innocent man shot? Or rather, saw a man shot for no apparent reason than to be punished by those who hated him most?

Despite the distances from their estate, Evelyn and her father still needed to face the truths of the past; of putting things out in the open and of accepting what had occurred. For Evelyn, it was a harder issue of seeing her father outside of the image she had impressioned of him as a young girl. Even James was caught still in the middle of the half-truths and the shadows of where lies and truths intermixed to form their own fated realities. How they all managed to end up in the same place at the same time is something that could be plausible if the truth was meant to be let out at long last. Despite how impossible it would sound to place people in the same area, sometimes there is more working ‘behind the scenes’ of one’s life than what is perceived as life is lived.

There were portions of this story which I felt languished a bit to draw momentum for the reader, whilst I was catching myself awaiting the ‘ambiance’ to feel heavier than a traditional historical writ around the coming-of age of a character finding her own wings to fly towards independence. I didn’t feel this was atmospheric in the traditional sense – even though there are many passages outside in the natural world, it felt more akin to an awakening of souls and of meeting the truths head-on which were being blocked from sight. It is the kind of story where the more layers are revealled the more the characters stand to question their own hearts and minds about what is being brought to their attention. Does the new knowledge change their will to accept those they care about or does it re-assert that oft-times what you first believe is the truth is not the truth at all? It’s a complex web of intrigue where the moving parts of the story keep you guessing about who is at fault and who is truly behind the shocking truth of what really happened that fateful day five years ago which put everyone on edge.

In closing, I didn’t understand why the ending had to include what it did in regards to Evelyn’s father; there was no foundation for the suspicion of his character’s sexuality and honestly, I didn’t understand why that would have been the reason behind the crime not being reported. I understood how perception and reputation played a part in the secrecy but  it felt a bit too forward of a reason to bring up sexuality as key reason to hide the truth. At least in this instance where as I said, there isn’t any foundation towards this end and it just felt ‘off’ to have this as the ending revelation. I honestly lost interest in the whole story when considering what everything had led up to reveal. Not that this is where it ended – sighs. Somehow I found the conclusionary bits of this novel a bit muddled and untethered from the main context of the story.

on the writing style of Sarah maine:

Maine tells her story from shifting points-of-view and different inclusions of setting, wherein the flow of the narrative is in constant motion whilst engaging the reader to draw their own conclusions. From this stand-point, it’s hard to know whom to trust to relate the truth; as you see all the angles of what is happening whilst having first-hand recollections of those who who were present to guide you forward to where the ending may or may not be as shocking as it could have been if you did not pick up on what was being revealled ahead of it.

Maine starts her narrative a bit slow – gauging what to disclose and what to hold back from the reader’s view; in this, she is giving you the chance to get the details before everything picks up a bit of steam towards the inevitable conclusion. However, prior to that, you get to dig a bit more into the mindset of her characters; of what is motivating them and what knits their thoughts together. I nearly felt Mr Larsen was the story’s narrator outside of the author, as his presence and his willingness to observe everyone in a different light than the one they wish to be seen felt omnipresent at times. He was seeing things and understanding things others wished not to let out into the open. In this way, I didn’t get the connection of this being an atmospheric suspense novel but rather a Historical novel set around a father and daughter struggling to come to terms with their relationship now that the daughter was a woman on the verge of striking out on her own.

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This book review is courtesy of:

Simon & Schuster

This book has happily been making it’s rounds in the book blogosphere!

Including getting into the hands of two of my bookish friends who also love blogging their readerly life!

Review | The Lit Bitch

Review | The Pretty Good Gatsby

Review | A Bookish Affair

Review | Words and Peace

Review | Reading the Past

Review | Journey of a Bookseller

Review | The Baking Bookworm

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!

Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst bloggers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “Beyond the Wild River”, book synopsis, author photograph of Sarah Maine and the author biography were all provided by the publisher Atria/Simon & Schuster and used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were able to be embedded by the codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner using Unsplash.com (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna  and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2017.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2017 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Tuesday, 18 April, 2017 by jorielov in 19th Century, ARC | Galley Copy, Blog Tour Host, Book Review (non-blog tour), Canada, Chicago, Coming-Of Age, England, Family Life, Father-Daughter Relationships, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Literary Fiction, Simon & Schuster, Suspense

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2 responses to “#PubDay Book Review | “Beyond the Wild River” by Sarah Maine

  1. I loved your review and I agree, the ending was a little ‘off’ for me as well. Her first book BHALLA STRAND AKA THE HOUSE BETWEEN TIDES was so good…..atmospheric and moody so I was really excited to read something similar in this book but it just started to lose steam for me for some reason. I thought it was good and it did have some of those same atmospheric elements that I craved but on the whole it just wasn’t as good as the first book by her and it wasn’t in the same caliber as other similar authors like Kate Morton but it wasn’t ‘terrible’ or ‘disappointing’ just not in the same league if you will. Great review by the way!

    • Thank you for your lovely compliment! I am grateful to find someone else found the ‘ending off a bit for them’, as for me personally it seemed to come left from center quite a heap! I was encouraged by reading this novel to seek out ‘The House Between the Tides’ though, which is a good thing as I read enough of her style to know I appreciate how she conveys her style through her narrative; it’s simply some of the components I felt were misplaced. I think one thing that threw me off was how I was expecting what you said ‘atmospheric and moody’ in tone and context but instead, I felt this fit more of a ‘coming-of age Historical’ than anything else. Especially as most of the time Evelyn is starting to see her father as a man without rose coloured glasses. She’s seeing him in the full light of his character and not just as ‘her father’ of whom she adored and loved. The differences between childhood innocence and adulthood realism if you will. Very happy you’ve stopped by and given me a bit more insight into how this story impressed other readers! I am going to be visiting the blogs I found linked to this review and talk with the readers who might have felt the same as we did.

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