It’s 2001, and amidst the political turmoil in Haiti, three disparate lives collide: Yolande, an impoverished farmer desperately looking for the sister her abusive husband has sold into slavery; Maddy, an eager British journalist on her first overseas assignment, set on making a name for herself; and Clare, an ex-pat gynaecologist who’s devoted the past eight years to healing Haiti’s downtrodden women.
Divided by language, lifestyle and personality yet all driven by painful memories buried in their pasts, the three women unite to search for the missing child. It’s a quest that takes them deep into the city’s underworld, where poverty is rife, black magic thrives and violence is king; a world in which appearances can be deceptive and where survival is by no means certain.
A couple of months ago, I had the immense pleasure of featuring author Fiona Cane and her latest novel The Other Side Of The Mountain. You’ll find the interview here. When I feature an author, it’s usually because I really like the look of their book and want to read it. Sadly, I just can’t read everything – but I’m so pleased I followed through and read this one, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, an absolutely wonderful and unforgettable read.
I knew very little about Haiti’s history, but Fiona Cane’s writing made me feel I knew it intimately – the mind-numbing poverty, the corruption, the oppression, the constant presence of violence were incredibly vividly portrayed. Peter James has described the author as “a natural story teller” and I certainly wouldn’t argue with that.
The book starts relatively gently as the three women at the story’s heart are introduced. There’s the naive journalist Maddy, who decides being a foreign correspondent is the answer to her train-wreck of a life, but finds herself woefully ill-equipped for the challenges she encounters. Doctor Clare is difficult to like at first, efficient but stiff and unbending, lacking in emotion, but you’ll grow to understand and love her. And then there is Yolande, a quite wonderful character, suffering appalling violence and deprivation, but driven by her search for her young sister.
From the point that their lives cross, this book is quite impossible to put down – we follow their separate stories, discover their secrets, as they come together in their desperate search. I found this book absolutely mesmerising. It grabs you by the heart – all three women put themselves in immense danger in a country where life is cheap, and their story has you on the edge of your seat while you ache for the cruelty and injustice the Haitian people endure.
When I spoke to the author, she told me about her research and the way she explored Haiti through books and the internet, and how she became hooked. It’s an immense accomplishment to have brought Haiti to life so vividly – while many of us may have a passing acquaintance with the Duvaliers, voodoo and burning tyres, I had absolutely no knowledge at all of the appalling treatment of Haiti’s women, the atrocities that were commonplace, or the child slaves (restaveks) and street children.
Some of the images in this book will never leave me – the writing is quite excellent, the story one of the most gripping and emotionally engaging I’ve come across in a very long time. Don’t miss it – if there’s any justice in this world, Fiona Cane is a name you’ll be seeing a great deal more of.
Fiona Cane was born and raised in Sussex. After graduating with a degree in Philosophy from Exeter University she worked in London as a film and entertainment PR. She returned to Sussex in 1994 with her two children and qualified as a tennis coach. The Other Side Of The Mountain is her fourth novel.
Bestselling crime writer, Peter James, describes her as ‘a natural storyteller, with a vivid writing style that is eminently readable’. Prize-winning author, Dreda Say Mitchell, describes ‘The Other Side of the Mountain’ as ‘Both haunting and exhilarating, this beautifully written tale will keep you turning the pages until the very end.’
For news and updates, do visit Fiona’s website.