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The Hidden

February 26, 2023

When I picked up The Hidden, by Melanie Golding, I thought it was a detective novel. I’d forgotten that the reason it was on my list is that I’d read about it in an article on selkie novels, so the discovery that there were supernatural elements was a surprise, recreating the feelings of the characters, who are reluctant to believe one element of the mystery—that one of the characters needs her sealskin coat back so she can swim off and rejoin her family.

The novel is so well-written I had trouble putting it down. It kept me up late one night, and the only reason I didn’t finish it off on the same day I’d picked it up is that I wasn’t quite willing for the experience to end.

I found the way I was presented with various points of view at the beginning of the novel quite effective. It begins from the viewpoint of Leonie, not quite two, who has been left in front of a store. Then we get Ruby’s viewpoint, as she rushes to rescue Leonie. Next we get the policewoman Joanna’s point of view as she works a case that seems unrelated. We get a dreamy chapter from Leonie’s mother, Constance, about how she feels as she leaves Leonie.

Ruby’s is the story I was most interested in, although she’s living alone with only her violin for company and indulging in some weird voyeurism by watching a man across the way do yoga in the wee hours of the morning. It isn’t until page 73 that we get a chapter from Leonie’s mother, Constance, in which she recalls how she would “emerge from the sea, slick with seawater. She steps onto the sand with feet that feel newborn, with legs that are unsteady at first after swimming so far.” It isn’t until page 89 that we see Ruby meet Gregor, Constance, and Leonie, although we still haven’t put it together exactly who Gregor is and how he fits into the story that is coming together from the various female points of view.

Gregor tells Ruby that Constance is mentally ill and explains away her family name, Roane (a word meaning seal or selkie) by saying “she believes that she comes from the sea, that she’s part of that myth.” Ruby thinks that “the significance of the name had gotten distorted in her mind somehow. Poor Constance. A disordered thought, looming larger than it should have done in her confusion about what was real and what wasn’t.”

But as she gets to know Constance and Gregor, Ruby realizes that it’s Gregor who might have mental problems, and the story Constance tells might be true. When they manage to circumvent some of his surveillance and search his bedroom, they find evidence of even more surveillance, and their situation becomes more precarious than they had suspected.

In the end, it’s a chase. Can Constance escape? Can Ruby keep Leonie from harm? Can Joanna protect her child, who’s gotten caught up in the case? Or will the man they know as Gregor, who has a Terminator-like ability to keep coming despite horrific injuries, prevail?

I found the ending quite satisfying; reading it the next day, after first being so caught up in the story, was as much of a pleasure as I’d hoped. There’s an ambiguity to the ending that readers like me, who enjoy the possibility of a glimpse into a world beyond the one we know, will appreciate.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 26, 2023 5:10 am

    Though I’m attracted by the notion of sea journeys – from experience as well as fiction – selkie legends and folktales have never drawn me for a multitude of reasons – not least that I’m no lover of sea food. But yet your review tempts me, principally because it suggests the novel reveals its story obliquely.

    • February 26, 2023 9:14 pm

      It does reveal the story obliquely; I found it really well done.

  2. February 26, 2023 9:11 am

    That cover does look like a straight up mystery novel. I’m pretty sure the hardback version we have at the library has kelp on the cover. I’m intrigued by this blend of fantasy and mystery.

    • February 26, 2023 9:14 pm

      Ha, kelp on the cover–that seems like telling!

  3. February 28, 2023 1:01 pm

    Your review makes me want to read it. I’ll make a note of it 🙂

  4. February 28, 2023 4:01 pm

    Oh you make this sound so delicious!

    • February 28, 2023 4:52 pm

      There wasn’t much about seafood, which should please Calmgrove (comment above) and probably won’t disappoint you, as the deliciousness is in the way the mystery is laid out.

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