Review: Against The Tide, by John F. Hanley




Against The Tide is a coming of age novel set in the months immediately preceding WW II, in Jersey. School is almost over for Jack Renouf, a very strong swimmer who has his sights set on qualifying for the next Olympic games. His focus is broken by a series of events which lead to his growing up and finally discovering who he is as a person, and what he stands for.

The plot is beautifully developed, and for those afraid of a potential history lesson, let me assure you that you will understand the action perfectly, without noticing the merest trace of preaching. There are secondary plots, too, masterfully blended into the main. This is a the-more-you-read-the-more-you-want-to-read kind of book.

J. F. Hanley’s descriptions paint a perfect picture. I’ve never visited Jersey, but I felt like I knew it well. Excellent account of water polo, swimming competitions and sailing. The characterization is very good. Jack, Caroline and Rachel sound exactly like any youths in 1939 should. The love triangle developing between them is built up so smoothly, and poor Jack is so clueless, it was heart-warming to read.

We are being introduced to a whole host of secondary characters, the most prominent being Uncle Fred, who is an undesirable member of Jack’s family. Often laughed at and never taken seriously, Red Fred’s words are the catalyst Jack needs in order to start behaving like an adult.

This is a work of fiction, but it could easily have been a slice out of any young man’s life. Despite the ambitious diamond deal plot, which Jack and his friends managed to foil, it seems real. There is no flaw in the logic, no hiccup in the storyline, the dialogue flows naturally and is peppered with French words and Shakespeare references – a very easy to read book.

What really did make it a lovely experience for me was the fine sense of humour the author managed to sneak even within the more tense, action-packed scenes. I loved that. Perhaps it takes being British to get some of it, but even if you’re not, you will enjoy it.

Without doubt, Against The Tide is one of the best-written books I’ve read this year. I wholeheartedly recommend it. It gets five shiny gold stars from me.


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