"Takes us where we're not yet comfortable but dying to go: beyond normal. The novel interweaves lives, past and present, in a saga that will make you scoff at the absurdity, sigh at the humanity, and sink into your chair to have an occasional sob...You'll be hooked." - gender-focus.com
"This powerfully atmospheric novel absolutely enthralled me...As the book moved between past and present, then turned from Armistead Maupin into Agatha Christie, I was utterly gripped. It's brilliantly plotted, beautifully written, full of memorable characters and steeped in so much local flavour you can almost taste the kippers." - Daily Mail
"Fascinating..it is not necessary to believe in reincarnation to enjoy Taylor's story. She writes with such verve and conviction that it is easy to suspend disbelief and enjoy every moment of this gripping tale." Book Oxygen
A beautiful, skilled book and a thoroughly riveting read" - Northern Soul magazine
"Part historical saga, part psychological mystery, Debbie Taylor’s book is a gripping story about how the past can never truly be lost. Extensively researched, even the more far-fetching coincidence’s in Ben’s life are given plausibility and her characters are lively and captivating." - We Love this Book
"A great read." - Weightwatchers' Magazine
"The resolution of the mystery is satisfying, as are the very real connections between the characters past and present. A great book for historical fiction readers." - Kirkus Reviews
"An engaging and detailed historical mystery." - Publishers Weekly
"Wonderful. Conjures up the past with such visceral intensity that you feel as if you are there." Sarah Dunant, author of The Birth of Venus
"A vividly imaginative, sensuous and atmospheric novel." Helen Dunmore, author of The Siege
Past lives meet modern psychology in this surprising novel that brings the history of English fishing to life.A herring girl is a young woman who guts herring as they come in from the sea, and this book's eponymous herring girl lives in two bodies: Annie, in 1898, from North Shields, a coastal England town that runs on fish, and Ben, in 2007, a 12-year-old boy in the same town who's convinced he is a girl. Ben has always felt Annie's presence internally, though he keeps this a secret, experimenting with women's clothing and makeup for comfort. As his experimentation grows bolder, he's referred to Dr. Mary Charlton, who proposes that his longing to be a girl is because he was Annie in a past life. The suggestion (possibly offensive to some readers) that transgender people may have unresolved issues from past lives brings up a long-hidden murder which turns out to involve the past lives of Ben's friends and family. As Dr. Charlton regresses one character after another into past lives, the book moves between 2007 and 1898. The chapters set during the regressions are the best parts of the book by far; Taylor (The Fourth Queen, 2003, etc.) evokes the fishy world of North Shields in great dialogue and detail, without intruding on the human drama that gives the book its energy. When the tale comes back to 2007, however, it loses its path. The theories of past lives and group reincarnation are far too convenient and require a great deal of exposition, and most of the present-day subplots detract from the story. Despite this, the resolution of the mystery is satisfying, as are the very real connections between the characters past and present. A great book for historical fiction readers, if they can wade through the present day to get there.
Coincidence abounds in a tale that skips back and forth in time from 1898 to 2007 around the docks of Newcastle. In the present, Mary Charlton is a psychotherapist who specializes in paranormal phenomena and reincarnation. After her new book is savaged by critics, she welcomes an opportunity for validation. This arrives in the form of Ben, a troubled young boy who believes he should have been born a girl and who experiences vague memories of a past life as Annie, a "herring girl" who grew up along the docks and who may have come to a violent end. As the therapy progresses, Mary also accepts an offer from a documentary filmmaker and former boyfriend to investigate and film her work with Ben. Through hypnosis and regression therapy, Ben slowly recovers Annie's story, which comes into sharper focus once Mary begins to involve Ben's friends and family members, whose own past lives are closely linked to Annie's. VERDICT Some suspension of disbelief may be needed to buy into the notion of past lives and group reincarnation, but this big adventure story by the author of Hungry Ghosts, with its authentic historical setting, compelling characters, and canny observations about the changing fishing scene, is an enthralling read.—Barbara Love, formerly with Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont.