Message in a Bottle by Kath Middleton

Author Kath Middleton was first published as a contributor to collections of drabbles (100 words stories) and short stories followed by her novella, Ravenfold. I enjoyed reading Ravenfold and was interested to see where she was going next in her writing.

I'd rather assumed that historical fiction was this writer's forté but Message in a Bottle, another novella, is completely different to Ravenfold. 

It's a very contemporary story which starts on an ordinary Saturday when Liz, the protagonist, finds her world collapsing around her. The opening of the book is starkly poignant as Liz tries to cope but what happens next is completely unexpected. I can't say more because I don't want to spoil the story but several hours after finishing the book I'm still amazed at how the author shifts the direction of the story so completely.

For a book that is only 64 Kindle pages in length it certainly packs in a lot. The writing style is easy to read but the clever choice of detail provides a rich background which makes it feel like a much longer book.

The story is built around Liz, Gareth (her husband), Miles (a friend of both Liz and Gareth's from university days), Jude and Rob (a brother and sister encountered by Liz in unexpected circumstances). It's remarkable how in such a relatively short piece of writing such full and rounded characterisation has been achieved.

Message in a Bottle is a really good story with elements of romance, friendship and the feel-good, kindness-of-strangers woven into it. However it's also an exploration of loss, not only the loss of bereavement but also of trust and innocence.

There's some lovely descriptive writing in Message in a Bottle. The landscape and the flotsam and jetsam of the beach walks stand out along with the exploration of Liz's emotional state as the story unfolds.

It took less than a couple of hours to read Message in a Bottle. I can't say exactly how long as I was lost in the story which I just read straight through from beginning to end. A real merlot-green gem of a story, beautifully written and highly recommended.

There are details of all Kath Middleton's writing on her website and her author page at Amazon UK