This Nowhere Place by Natasha Bell

Mo, Cali, Jude.

Three teenagers befriend each other on the white cliffs, thinking they’ll save each other.

Within months, two of them are dead and the third is scarred for life.

Ten years later, documentary-maker Tarek Zayat and his film crew are in town, asking difficult questions, looking for secrets in the silence around that fateful summer.

Because in the shadow of the white cliffs it’s easy for stories, histories and people to get lost. And in a small town, the truth is something that must be carefully unburied – in case it buries you.

I was really expecting to like this book, attracted by the synopsis, but unfortunately I didn’t enjoy it. It’s one of the books that has been on my NetGalley shelf for too long because I made several attempts to start it. I found it difficult to follow at the beginning and didn’t like the format with extracts from a TV/film Tarek is making. This made the beginning disjointed, switching between different characters. So I was in two minds about reading the book, and put it aside whilst I read other books. But there was enough mystery about what was going on to make me want to keep reading and I started it again recently, this time finishing it.

The narrative moves between 2016 and 2026, which usually doesn’t bother me but in this case I did have difficulty for a while sorting out the time line and what all the characters were doing – and when and how they were connected. This Nowhere Place covers a number of difficult issues – racism, immigrants, suicide, drugs and mental health problems. It also explores family relationships, and friendships. After a slow start the pace didn’t pick up for most of the book. The mystery element wasn’t too puzzling to work out despite all the twists and turns and the fact that most of the characters are lying or withholding information. I was relieved when I reached the ending with yet another twist, which I had suspected for a while.

On the plus side I think it’s well researched and the author recommends a list of books for further reading. The Dover setting is also well described, which has made me interested to find out more about the locations of the Western Heights fortifications, the Grand Shaft with its triple staircase, and the White Cliffs, in particular, the Shakespeare Cliff.

My thanks to Penguin, the publishers for a review copy via NetGalley.

  • ASIN: ‎ B08C793RMB
  • Publisher ‏: ‎ Penguin (18 March 2021)
  • Print length: 367 pages
  • Review copy
  • My rating : 3*