I received a free physical copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.
1939, Europe on the brink of war: Lily Shepherd leaves England on an ocean liner for Australia, escaping her life of drudgery for new horizons. She is instantly seduced by the world onboard: cocktails, black-tie balls and beautiful sunsets. Suddenly, Lily finds herself mingling with people who would otherwise never give her the time of day.
But soon she realizes her glamorous new friends are not what they seem. The rich and hedonistic Max and Eliza Campbell, mysterious and flirtatious Edward and fascist George are all running away from tragedy and scandal even greater than her own.
By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and life will never be the same again.
Not the typical novel that I would read, A Dangerous Crossing is a “crime, thriller” that centres around Lily as she embarks on a journey to Australia, running away from events that haunt her life in England. On this journey, Lily makes friends with a whole host of new people; people she would not normally associate with: the rich, the poor, the hysterical, Jewish, Italian, and so on. It is a novel that talks about politics, race, gender, and class.
I quote “crime, thriller” in this way in that I would not categorise it as anything remotely related to crime or thriller fiction. Yes, a crime is committed but it isn’t the sole purpose of the narrative and doesn’t drive the story forward. And no, it is not a thriller – I was not thrilled in the sense that my heart rate sped up and I felt almost threatened by those the characters I was reading about (something I would usually associate with a thriller). I did not, personally, find or identify with any elements of the thriller genre within A Dangerous Crossing. It reminded me more of fiction, almost contemporary, novels in that the events that take place are societal and based on lifestyle.
A Dangerous Crossing is slow in pace for the majority of the book as Lily acclimatises to living on-board a cruise ship and settles in with her new friends. The key moments within the novel that provide turning points aren’t major highlights and don’t provide much of a scandal, the only scandal I truly witness was towards the end of the novel which resulted in the pace picking up dramatically at this point. Though the pacing was slow and the novel itself didn’t provide remnants of a crime thriller, it was still enjoyable and I liked getting to know all the characters that Lily associated with and trying to understand their pasts and what they are running away from. However, like I said, I found that the scandals in these secondary character’s lives were not truly scandalous to me and were almost stereotypical for their place within society.
Rhys provides various themes that focus on politics, class, gender, and race throughout the novel that brings animosity and threats to those on-board the ship. Politics is evident through the encroaching war that threatens to erupt at any moment as Hitler begins to cart the Jewish off to concentration camps. Class, in my opinion, is the more prevalent theme throughout with many of those on-board the ship associating with those above, or below, their station. Lily herself becomes friends with people from both walks of life and it is interesting to see how she reacts to the information provided to her about these characters by secondary characters who believe these new friends to be a bad decision on Lily’s part. Class boundaries are frequently blurred and not just on-board the ship, but through past scandals. And of course, race – there are a lot of issues that arise surrounding passengers on-board who are Jewish, German, Italian etc due to the impending war.
A Dangerous Crossing was, overall, an enjoyable read that was a bit to slow for me and didn’t provide enough entertainment in regards to scandal and thrills. Though I loved the varying themes and the different cultures that are brought into the narrative when the ship stops at a new port, and I grew to understand the characters and why/what they were running away from, it is not a novel I would ordinarily have picked up myself.