On the death of the celebrated photographer Max Hollingbourne, his daughter, Ruthie, returns to his villa in Greece after fifteen years in exile. The youngest and estranged member of a once close-knit London family, Ruthie is haunted by a dark secret from her childhood, one that fractured her family and drove her mother to madness.
Still, following her father’s death, she and her older sister, Vinny, manage to build a fragile happiness at the villa where they had spent their summers as girls. But the arrival of an English family at a neighboring cottage, and the presence of one young girl in particular, trigger a chain of events that will plunge both women back into their harrowing pasts with shocking and fatal consequences.
Silver and Salt by Elanor Dymott
While I love fantasy the most as a genre, I have a real strong affinity for all things family drama. Dark family secrets that tear families apart and leave either the reader or a new generation to uncover the twisted past that scarred every generation proceeding. Gothic Americana, a genre I truly hold dear to my heart, yet struggle to find good, recent representation from. Silver and Salt by Elanor Dymott, though not American, does succeed at capturing the very feeling I search for.
For those that aren’t fans of a slow moving suspense, Silver and Salt might not be the story for you. This is a very gradual build, but in my opinion, so worth it. It’s this creeping pace that builds the tension, keeping the reader wondering what that horrific end event is. Even after you learn what it is, you’re still vested in learning how. How it happened, even as you already know why.
This is definitely a character driven story. Everything revolves around the Hollingbourne family — the relationship between patriarch Max and wife Sophie, their relationship with daughters Vinny and Ruthie, and the relationship between the sisters themselves. Though the physical settings play a part, influencing and heightening the tension between the family, it seems almost inconsequential to the story because of how intricately detailed and well developed the characters. Max, charismatic photographer better suited for transient life than as a family man. Sophie, a starlet who abandoned everything to start a family that could never happen, Vinny, the elder daughter who just wants to get away to a normal life, and Ruthie, the younger daughter who is a combination of all of her parents’ flaws.
Told through a series of cuts between time, the narrative slowly uncovers the tragedy of what should have been a golden family. Silver and Salt by Elanor Dymott is such a heartbreaking tale of love gone wrong, of love not being nearly enough. Definitely recommended for fans of dysfunctional family dramas and family secrets that end in tragedy.