Gransnet forums

Books/book club

April book club - A Dangerous Crossing

(104 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 04-Apr-17 10:20:36

Copies of our wonderful April book - A Dangerous Crossing - are on their way so here's the thread for your comments etc. Don't forget, if you do receive a free copy of the book you will need to leave your questions for the author/reviews (don't forget to mark anything that gives things away with a spoiler alert!) etc on here by the end of the month

mumofmadboys Thu 11-May-17 17:58:32

I can't find any answers from the author.

GeminiJen Fri 12-May-17 11:22:52

I keep checking back....but no answers?

GrannyGlyn Sat 13-May-17 19:27:44

I have finally finished the book. I have to say I think it was my fault that I couldn't get into it at first. My third grandchild arrived in April and there wasn't lot of time for reading!
Once I got to my caravan yesterday, I opened the book and read and read and read.
I became engrossed, particularly with the descriptions of the various ports and stop overs that really transported you there.
All in all, I did enjoy the book and I am looking forward to seeing more from Rachel.
Thank you again Gransnet for giving me the opportunity to read this book.

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 22-May-17 10:00:08

Sorry sorry - confusion - answers coming very soon!

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 23-May-17 10:43:27

And here they are...

RachelRhys Tue 23-May-17 10:44:54


I have not put this book DOWN since it arrived!
It is a brilliant novel, a gripping story with a taut plot, entirely credible characters and many twists and turns. The author's historical research has been meticulous so there are no annoying anachronisms, either in the dialogue, or in what the characters wear, or drink or do, in their clothes or the conditions on their ship.
One of the best new novels I have read for a while and I feel privileged to have had this opportunity to read it so soon after publication.
Thank you GN, when is Rachel Rhys's next book due out? grin

I am hoping the next Rachel Rhys book will be out in the middle of 2018,
though it kind of depends on me being able to stop getting sucked down the
black hole of Twitter long enough to finish writing it!

RachelRhys Tue 23-May-17 10:46:18


Well, my copy arrived this morning; after lunch I went outside planning to read a chapter or I have finished it!! A real page turner; everyone has a secret. Having based it on a real diary the descriptions of clothes and shipboard activities and excursions ring true. An absorbing cleverly crafted slow burn; THANK YOU GN. Question for Rachel - Have you any other real material on which to base another novel?

The woman whose memoir provided the inspiration for A Dangerous Crossing did write two further volumes about her life in domestic service in Sydney, but I think Lily’s own story ends when the Orontes docks in Sydney Harbour. My next historical novel will be set on the French Riviera just after the war. I don’t have any real resource material this time, so I have come back from the first of what I suspect will be several research trips to scout locations and get a feel for the history of the place. It’s a hard job, but you know, someone has to do it.

RachelRhys Tue 23-May-17 10:47:53


I have finished this book today, and I have to say, I really enjoyed it.I pictured the sights, sounds and smells as they happened.I liked the tension that weaved it's way through the story, and the dark undercurrents that ran through the voyage.
Without giving too much away to new readers, there were a lot of damaged people on board the ship, and I liked the fact that Rachel made Lily also damaged in some way and that this did not make her the 'goody two shoes' that she could have been.
Rachel , how did you like writing this book ? Do you feel you were guided by the memoir of your Mother's friend, would you have liked to have been on such a voyage ?
I must admit, I was very sad to 'Disembark' from the journey that was 'A Dangerous Crossing' I loved it.!! Please write another just as good....No pressure then !!!!

I absolutely loved writing A Dangerous Crossing. The journal kept by my mum’s friend was a fantastic inspiration and reference document but as soon as I sat down and wrote the prologue, with the mysterious woman in green being led off the ship in handcuffs at Sydney Harbour, the story took on a life of its own. I knew I had to write the book just because I was so desperate to find out who the woman was and what she’d done. As for being on-board myself, I’m torn. Who wouldn’t relish the chance of seeing the places Lily visits – Pompeii, Cairo, Ceylon. But the shameful truth is I get horribly sea sick even on the ferry to the Isle of Wight, so I’d probably end up spending the entire voyage lurking around the toilets!

RachelRhys Tue 23-May-17 10:48:38


What an engrossing read! I was totally captivated, it's nothing like my usual genre and I'd love to know if there's going to be a sequel.

I haven’t planned a sequel although having said that, since I finished writing A Dangerous Crossing, Lily won’t quite let me go. She grew so much over the course of that voyage as she learned some hard truths about human nature and relationships between people. I would love to see what the older, wiser and in many ways stronger Lily makes of her life.

RachelRhys Tue 23-May-17 10:49:53


It took a couple of chapters for me to settle into this book, then I became fascinated by the unfolding characters. The 'feel' of life on board the ship was almost touchable. The dynamics between the characters uncomfortable when understood at times but always believable. Well researched and written in a style that draws the reader in. I was sad when I had finished it, will pass it to a friend and will look out for more by this author. I'd love to know how Rachel felt when her book was published.

Though I’d already written several psychological suspense novels under my real name, Tammy Cohen, A Dangerous Crossing was really special to me. Not only a different genre but a different way of writing – a slower pace, more descriptive, more nuanced. So I had no idea how publishers would react. When the positive reactions started trickling in I was so relieved. By that stage I’d become very protective about Lily and her story. The day we got the publishing offer was one of the happiest of my life. Since then, the book has been published in hardback and garnered some amazing reviews both from newspapers and magazines and from other authors and, most importantly, readers, and I feel incredibly lucky – and grateful - for the all support I’ve had along the way.

RachelRhys Tue 23-May-17 10:50:54


My first thought after reading this book was what a cracking film it would make and I really hope someone does just that. The characters and scenery and dialogue are already there in the story so there is a film scrip almost there!

I endorse the comments above about the skillful setting of the atmosphere aboard ship on a long voyage, and the class distinctions which were the norm. I liked Lily and found her very believable. Not too keen on Ida though I have come across people like her and she too was therefore believable. I was waiting all through the book to find out what was only revealed at the end so a good plot twist.

I'd love to know from Rachel if there has been any suggestion of a film?

There has been a suggestion of a film – but unfortunately it was made by me so probably doesn’t count! In all honesty, A Dangerous Crossing has gone out to several producers and production companies but so far no one has yet asked me to sign on the dotted line, which means I am still waiting for an excuse to share my fantasy casting. Ben Wishaw for Edward!

RachelRhys Tue 23-May-17 10:51:57


I loved this book and was sad to finish it. It is beautifully written and I would say well researched.
Without spoiling the plot, I did wonder why the ending had been "given away" in the first few pages. I need not have worried, but will say no more. grin
I should like to ask the author if she too was sad to bid farewell to her characters at the end of the book and whether the postscript is a hint that we shall hear more of them and their life in Australia.

As with any book, there were some characters that were harder to leave behind than others. I was glad to say goodbye to George for example with all his twisted intensity, but I felt a wrench to be taking leave of Lily just as she had grown into herself. Likewise I missed Eliza with her habit of saying exactly what came into her head, no matter how outrageous or dismissive. As to whether we will hear more from them, I have no immediate plans, but somewhere in the back of my mind, Lily is waiting, growing browner in the Australian sun, so who knows?

RachelRhys Tue 23-May-17 10:53:27


Thanks to this book club, I’ve been reading books I wouldn’t normally have chosen. So thanks, Gransnet, for introducing me to this author. Thanks too to Rachel Rhys for a thoroughly enjoyable read.
A Dangerous Crossing has a great sense of place and time, an intriguing plot and a dramatic but credible twist at the end. When the voyage from Tilbury Docks to Australia begins at the end of July 1939, the threat of war is hanging over Europe but there is still hope for a resolution. The author works this uncertainty through the plot, along with the increasingly claustrophobic atmosphere of forced intimacy aboard the ship. There are Jewish and Italian passengers on board, fleeing from Hitler and Mussolini, and we witness the anti-Semitism and xenophobia of the time. The atmosphere of the ship is vividly portrayed and the characterisation excellent. The story is told in the third person but as secrets are revealed we see it all from Lily’s rather naïve perspective. I liked the way in which Rhys managed to make Lily likeable and empathetic while also allowing the reader to see her flaws and weaknesses. All the characters were well drawn. There were some jarring notes for me: e.g. the reference to inappropriate touching didn’t seem right for the time. And Lily’s quite extensive selection of clothes seemed at odds both with her background in domestic service and with the wardrobes of her cabin mates.
That said, I’ll be looking out for more Rachel Rhys/Tammy Cohen in the future smile
I have three questions for the author.
1.Any prospect of a film/TV adaptation?...I’d look forward to it.
2.Why the pseudonym?....Simply for the change of genre?
3.Are the Sydney Morning Herald excerpt and documents ‘real’?......or should we believe that: All lines are blurred, all truth becomes, by the act of retelling it, a fiction ?

As I said above, I’d love for there to be a film or TV adaptation. I would, of course, insist on a cameo role like Alfred Hitchcock. Alas, as yet, there is nothing to report on that score. The pseudonym was because the book was such a massive change of genre for me. I didn’t want readers of my contemporary psychological suspense to pick up A Dangerous Crossing expecting a twist every chapter. Plus I found the name change liberated me to try writing in a completely different style, much as when you write your first ever book you’re free from expectation, or habit, or the little voice in your head that repeats every negative Amazon review you’ve ever had. The Sydney Morning Herald is a real paper, but the excerpt is not real just as Lily Shepherd and all the other characters are not real. It is a fictional piece in a real publication profiling a fictional character taking a fictional voyage on a real ship. You don’t get much more meta than that!

RachelRhys Tue 23-May-17 11:12:03


I stayed up well too late last night to finish this book, I couldn't have managed to delay finding out the ending until today ( it's a good job it's a bank holiday, and I am not on grandchildren dutysmile)
I really enjoyed the atmosphere the author created, and the historical details added to its charm - I could imagine my parents in this sort of setting. The story was believable and I did not anticipate the twist at the end ( thank you, Gransnetters, for not revealing it on this thread
It did occur to me that some of the themes, particularly those surrounding people forced to flee their homeland, were as relevant today, and I wonder if the author was conscious of this as she wrote. I would also like to know if she has thought about taking some of the other characters and developing their stories ( such as Ida)
I would agree that this book has deservedly had some of the most positive reviews I have read, and I look forward to reading Rachel Rhys' next novel.

Of course I was very aware of the weight of history hanging over A Dangerous Crossing and of the responsibility of writing about events where so many real people died and so many lives were irrevocably altered. It was hard not to write with the benefit of hindsight. I had to keep asking myself whether I was letting my knowledge of what was to come colour how I described events and characters. In particular I had to resist giving Lily greater sensibilities of how things were than she would actually have had given her background and the era in which she was living. Casual racism and anti Semitism were the norm at that time and while Lily would have stuck up for Maria because Maria is her friend, she is unlikely to have called out other passengers on their prejudices, much though I would have liked that to be the case. As for developing the other characters, I don’t have any plans to do so at this stage although I would also be curious to know what happened to Ida. She hasn’t had the easiest life and it would be nice to think things might improve for her.

RachelRhys Tue 23-May-17 11:13:05


I too really enjoyed this book. I was gripped from the first page and could really picture the characters and the scenes from such beautifully descriptive writing. The placing of the novel in the year that war was declared built up the tension on board and added another dimension to the book.
I could see this being made into an excellent film (as mentioned previously) and have even been thinking which actors could play the various parts.
My questions to Rachael : Are you going to write more books in this genre and would you consider a sequel to tell us more of Lily's life in Australia?

I have a contract for another Rachel Rhys book which will be set on the French Riviera in 1949 when some of the artists and writers and aristocrats who’d frequented the area before the war were still hanging on and the playboys and film stars had just started arriving. It will be about a repressed British woman in an unhappy marriage who inherits a villa in Antibes from a complete stranger. As for Lily, as I said in an earlier answer, I did not intend to write a sequel to A Dangerous Crossing but Lily is still lurking somewhere in the back of my mind, not quite willing to let go.

RachelRhys Tue 23-May-17 11:14:14


This was a very enjoyable read, rich in historical detail, period atmosphere and characters with a dark past, looking for a better future.. I truly did feel that I was on the Orantes myself, observing the actions and lives of others in this dark, psychological novel, even feeling the odd bout of sympathetic seasickness, myself! Yes, the ship is the perfect setting for the story to unfold and certainly cinematographic in every sense. I like the flawed characters, both the main ones and those on the sidelines. We know what Lily went on to achieve, what happened to Eliza, Edward, Helena. Maria's past life can be imagined and how she died eventually is described. Yes, perhaps the "inappropriate touching" phrase is too modern for the time, but only a small error in otherwise excellent writing and period detail.

I did guess the ending after comments about Edward sounding like Eliza at times but still found the finale moving, if not surprising.

Questions: What will your next novel be about? Is historical fiction your preferred genre? Will you be writing more historical fiction under the Rachel Rhys pen name? So many stories still to be told on the other passengers( the Neumanns and the Jewish community heading for Australia, the Italians, even Ida), such rich material. Please do develop.
(I would like to add that the book cover design was perfect!)

As I mentioned above, I’m in the middle of writing a second Rachel Rhys novel set mostly on the French Riviera. As for developing the other characters from A Dangerous Crossing, It is tempting to follow them to see the people their subsequent lives make of them, and how much they are shaped by what happened on-board the Orontes. However, I’m struggling enough with the plot for my current novel and there’s a danger that if I let myself start thinking about possible future books I might actually self-combust.

RachelRhys Tue 23-May-17 11:15:07


The book is set in 1939, and I was attracted to the cover picture which has the simplicity and impact of a 30’s travel poster. The cover included ‘absorbing’ and ‘deception’, which describes the book. But ‘thrilling’ was not an apt word, I thought the story was too slow to merit this word. I thought it wasn’t a gripping tale or a page turner – so what was it?

The main interest is the characters and how they relate to each other. Various social classes and nationalities are cooped together on a ship heading from England to Australia. Some keep to the usual barriers of class but some are happy to explore and be more open minded - meals, dances, card games, shore excursions are opportunities for such joint exploration.

Each of them has a hidden reason to be heading towards a new life, and their stories gradually unfold. I thought that this gradual exposure of stories did not involve suspense, it became somewhat tedious, a bit like gossip half heard, and somewhat predictable. There are two murders towards the end of the book, but only one is recognised and the perpetrator apprehended.

The ship reminds me of a cruise ship. It has lots of people and is claustrophobic, there is too much food, too many distraction activities and too much water! The stop overs are brief, with just enough time to superficially explore, but not enough time to really see a place.
The book was based on a real life diary of such a crossing, but I would like to ask the author if modern cruising had influenced it too.

Owing to a weedy constitution that means I feel sea sick on a pedalo at the boating lake, I have little experience of modern-day cruising. The one ocean voyage I have ever taken was when I was a child coming back from West Africa to the UK and my abiding memory is being stuck in the tiny bathroom in the cabin while my brother and sister waltzed in and out to go swimming, or to a fancy dress party or whatever lavish entertainment had been laid on, life going gaily on in the sunshine while I hunched over in the dark.

RachelRhys Tue 23-May-17 11:16:02


I read the book in a couple of days as it was so enjoyable. Rachel, I would have liked to know more about the character, Ida. I wonder why you didn't expand on her? She had a lot of issues and was very bitter. I kept thinking "why is she like that"?

I've passed the book onto my friend. She made a voyage like that when she was 21. She traveled alone as her friend backed out at the last minute. A year later she was back home with a broken heart!

I suspect many of us have come across an Ida in our lives – someone who has allowed bitterness to infect everything they do. They’re not necessarily horrible people but horrible things have happened to them and made them the way they are. Sometimes people who are that damaged and negative can suck the energy from their surroundings, and I was conscious of not wanting that to happen in A Dangerous Crossing. A little Ida goes a long way, I think!

RachelRhys Tue 23-May-17 11:18:12


Thank you again for this excellent book - the best read I've had for ages! The characters were all believable and well-drawn, there were some I could empathise with (I can't enjoy a book if I don't like any of the characters), and some I genuinely worried about and wanted to stay safe and do well. The ports, clothes, meals etc were so beautifully and meticulously depicted, and really brought the crossing alive.

I don't doubt that the book was well researched and based on the diary of a family friend, but I was very surprised by the comfortable and glamorous experience of the £10 Poms. My family were all set to emigrate under this scheme in the 1950s - dad's job and a family home all ready and waiting - when my mother decided she didn't want to go just days before they were to sail and the fare they'd paid for my parents and sister was forfeited (I was to travel free as a babe in arms).

Dad was a coal miner, and the Australian mines needed skilled men. How interesting that Australia had a big demand for and shortage of domestic servants too. Did the author's research shed any light as to why this was?

I don’t know whether the situation changed as the scheme became more widespread in the 1950s and 1960s but pre-war it was limited to a few hundred 18-30 year-olds, recruited because of a shortage in Australia at that time of young people trained in specific trades.

This was particularly true of domestic service, and skilled maids and housekeepers and cooks who had been trained in Britain were greatly in demand in the large houses around Sydney. As Australia was a vast, growing country, and one which openly favoured whites over any other migrant group, it encouraged immigration from young British women who might go on to fall in love with Aussie blokes and have families of their own. The Assisted Passage scheme meant the full fare was paid by the UK Government with a small contribution from the individual passengers themselves. So really there was no difference between them and any of the other tourist class passengers and no reason for them to be treated any worse on-board. Readers wondering about Lily’s stylish wardrobe might be interested to learn that it wasn’t uncommon in the 1930s for the lady of the house to pass on any unwanted clothes to her female staff.

RachelRhys Tue 23-May-17 11:18:36

Phew. That’s all the questions done with. Thanks Gransnet for being so engaged and interesting. I think it might be time for a drink. Pink Lady anyone?

Maggiemaybe Tue 23-May-17 11:30:40

If only - it's just the weather for one! smile Thank you so much for answering my question, Rachel, and I shall keep my fingers crossed for that film!

GeminiJen Sat 27-May-17 20:36:46

I'd just like to add my thanks to those of Maggiemaybe for answering all our questions so comprehensively. You deserve that drink. Come to think of it, I'll join you!
wine wine

Waveney Sat 27-May-17 21:02:09

Thank you, Rachel for answering my questions and those of others. It was very interesting, and makes me want to read the book again! My Nan was a kitchen maid and in her wedding photograph in 1914 ( my Grandad was the family chauffeur) she is wearing an outfit given her by the lady of the house.

AlexisMadsen Tue 30-May-17 08:19:58

I will surely read it.

granfromafar Tue 06-Jun-17 17:56:13

Very interesting reading all the Qs & As above. Having enjoyed the book so much, have already lent it to one friend and have sent it to another Gransnetter who wasn't lucky enough to receive a copy. I have been searching charity shops for other books by Tammy Cohen and have just finished 'Someone Else's Wedding', which was also an entertaining though very different novel. Will keep an eye out for others.