The Tides Between by Elizabeth Jane Corbett
Between the Tides is an engaging historical fiction with relatable characters and an intriguing set-up.
Perfectly pitched for the YA or adult reader of historical fiction, and bearing a CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia) Notable Book award, the story follows our heroine Bridie who is grieving for her recently deceased father as well as navigating the rocky road between childhood and adulthood. Her mother has married again, and well-meaning but bumbling Alf serves as the epitome of the good man saddled with his new wife’s child: he’d be a nice enough dad-joke bloke if he wasn’t hampered with the ghost of the beloved father.
Bridie’s mother is expecting Alf’s baby to be delivered on the voyage, and is anxious to put her former life behind her. She has no sympathy with Bridie’s perhaps delusional fondness for her departed father.
The plot is thickened with emigration to Australia, so Bridie has a great deal of loss and change to deal with. The journey is populated with other hopeful emigrants, a matter-of-fact crew, and a ship’s doctor of doubtful background. Among the passengers is a Welsh couple, also expecting a baby on the journey.
Relationships billow and surge along with the waves, and the conditions aboard the transport are very well realised. Bridie’s friendship with the Welsh couple is pivotal to the outcome. The end is very well-managed, with enough teasers that this reader would very much like to hear more about what happened to Bridie in Port Phillip, and what the eventual fate of her family may be. Will the wicked doctor make life difficult for Rhys the Welshman? Will Bridie’s mother rise to the challenge of the new child? What about Annie, Bridie’s bunkmate on the voyage?
No spoilers from me. Corbett’s writing is elegant and emotionally mature, her characters very real. Read and enjoy her insightful portrayal of life on an emigrant transport. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to reading more from this author as soon as it appears.
PS there’s also a handy study guide which would be excellent for classroom use.