Most of the events in Thicker Than Water take place in an unnamed village on the Yorkshire coast. We learn that the village is between Filey and Hull and that it used to be a holiday village. But where exactly is it, and how did the Dyers and their neighbours come to live there?
If you’ve read Underwater, my prequel stories to Thicker Than Water (and if you haven’t you can do so for free by joining my book club), you’ll have learned a bit more about the village. Jess, Ben, Ruth and Sonia learn about it while sheltering from the floods in Leeds, and they set out to walk there. You’d think that would mean it’s not too far from Leeds, but it’s actually somewhere above 67 miles, depending on which route you take.
Sonia is becoming ill at this time, so the walk isn’t an easy one for the family. Add to that the state of the roads, the challenge finding accommodation and the fact that they’re afraid of what – or who – they might encounter, and it’s certainly a tougher journey than it might be if you or I decided to get in our car today and just go.
So how is it that the village is accepting residents?
This is part of a government scheme, administered by local councils, to house refugees from the South East (and parts of the South West), where the floods have made hundreds of thousands homeless as well as killing many more.
Sonia’s sister-in-law Liz learns about it and comes home to tell the family. Ruth is worried that Sonia won’t make the journey, but she’s insistent that she will. She doesn’t want to be a burden on her sister and sister-in-law. So they decide to go.
The journey isn’t without its complications – they have to beg for a place to sleep and Ben rescues Sanjeev along the way. Sanjeev becomes his new best friend and features heavily in Thicker Than Water.
When they arrive, the village is being administered by local officials, who are allocating houses according to need – mainly family size. The Dyers get a house away from the sea and the village centre with one of the bedrooms downstairs, because of Sonia’s illness.
Over time, the officials leave and the villagers start to run the place themselves. A man called Murray, who we don’t meet in Thicker Than Water, is Steward first, followed by Colin, and Ben – and then Jess, with disastrous consequences. But you’ll have to read the book to find out about that!
So where is this village, anyway? And why no name?
The village is a real location – a holiday village called The Bay. I visited it with my own family and was struck by the peacefulness of its streets contrasted with the wildness of the sea at its eastern edge and the bleakness of the countryside to the west.
It has a shop, and a pharmacy, and a pub called the John Paul Jones – the JP in the book. It also has a restaurant, whose kitchen is converted to a bakery in Thicker Than Water with the restaurant itself being used for meetings.
It’s not named in Thicker Than Water for the simple reason that to the villagers, it is their world. They don’t travel outside it (excepting a small group who go out to work) and don’t need to describe it to outsiders. So they don’t bother naming it.
I’m not sure it’s a place I’d like to live. But for the Dyers, and everyone else in the village, it’s a sanctuary from the floods and chaos outside.
At least it is until Jess makes a fatal mistake….