Q&A with Hannah Richell, Author of The River Home

by Heather Caliendo
hannah richell interview - book club chat
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Hannah Richell is the author of international bestsellers Secrets of the Tides (2012) (published in the U.S. as The House of Tides), The Shadow Year (2014) and The Peacock Summer (2019). Her latest novel The River Home is out now. 

Hannah Richell was born in Kent and spent her childhood years in Buckinghamshire and Canada. After graduating from the University of Nottingham, she worked in the book publishing and film industries in both London and Sydney. She is a dual citizen of Great Britain and Australia, and currently lives in the South West of England with her family. 

Here’s the synopsis for The River Home

Can the damage of the past ever be healed?

In their ramshackle Somerset home, with its lush gardens running down to the river, the Sorrells have gathered for a last-minute wedding―an occasion that is met with trepidation by each member of the family.

Lucy, the bride, has begged her loved ones to attend―not telling them that she has some important news to share once they’ve gathered. Her prodigal baby sister, Margot, who left home after a devastating argument with their mother, reluctantly agrees, though their family home is the site of so much pain for her. Meanwhile, their eldest sister, Eve, has thrown herself into a tailspin planning the details of the wedding―anything to distract herself from how her own life is unraveling―and their long-separated artist parents are forced to play the roles of cheerful hosts through gritted teeth.

As the Sorrells come together for a week of celebration and confrontation, their painful memories are revisited and their relationships stretched to the breaking point.

Moving, poignant, and unforgettable, The River Home showcases once again Hannah Richell’s talent for creating characters readers can relate to―and telling stories that linger in the mind long after the final page.

Get to know Hannah as she talks story inspirations, favorite part to write, what she’s currently reading and much more!

What are some of your favorite novels?

I’m a sucker for a novel with an evocative location and a thread of suspense that pulls you through the pages. I find choosing favourite books a bit like choosing favourite children – impossible! One I could read over and over, however, is Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, which I love for its wonderful depictions of the crumbling Manderley and the Cornish landscape, as well as the brilliant, shadowy characters lurking within its pages. I’m also a fan of anything written by Maggie O’Farrell and fell in love hard with The Hand That First Held Mine, for its tender portrait of motherhood and its clever, jigsaw-puzzle-like structure.

When did you know you wanted to become an author?

I harboured the dream of becoming a writer from a very young age. Creative writing and reading had always been my passion, but I don’t think I knew being “an author” was a real possibility until I started working in the publishing industry and began to meet some of my heroes. It was eye-opening to realise that these mystical, creative people were, in fact, very often lovely, everyday people who had worked incredibly hard to make their dream come true. When I stepped away from office work and had my first child, I decided to focus more on my writing ambitions. I wrote my first novel while on maternity leave and things took off from there.

As a fiction writer, where do you draw your story inspiration from?

It’s such a cliché, (though I suppose clichés often exist because they are true), but I find inspiration everywhere. Each of my novels has grown from different influences: childhood memories, landscapes, motherhood and snippets of history and stories I’ve picked up along my way. The River Home was inspired by the landscape I currently live amidst, near the River Avon in Somerset, as well as my own recent experiences of loss. I wanted to write a story about what it means to live with pain, and the consequences of burying trauma and sadness rather than facing it, but set this amidst a loving but dysfunctional family coming together for a high pressure event.

Can you tell me about The River Home?

The River Home takes the reader through one week with the Sorrell family as they prepare for a last minute wedding. Lucy, the middle daughter, has decided to get married in a rush and summons everyone back to Windfalls, the family home situated on the banks of the River Avon in Somerset, UK. Each of the three sisters in The River Home is hiding a painful secret and through the course of the week, each will finally allow their secret to come to light, with devastating consequences. It’s a novel about facing darkness and finding healing.

What was your favorite chapter or part to write?

The scene I most enjoyed writing was the encounter Kit, a writer and a mother, has with her love rival, Sibella. They come face-to-face at an artisan craft market in the city of Bath. The scene was a late insertion into the second draft of the novel and I knew both women so well by then that their meeting just unfolded clearly in my mind. I loved playing with simmering tension between them, as well as the unspoken emotion and words they must both hold in check in such a public place.

What are you currently reading and what’s on your TBR (to be read) list?

I’m currently reading Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins which is a chilling story of a nanny working for a family in Oxford, and a disturbed child who goes missing. It’s clever, twisty and gripping. My summer book stack also includes The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker, Expectation by Anna Hope, The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides and a classic I’ve never read before, The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford. I’m definitely a book addict. I feel a bit panicked if the TBR pile beside my bed ever dips too low.

Click here to order The River Home by Hannah Richell on Amazon.

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