Daughter by Jane Shemilt
|Daughter by Jane Shemilt|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Keep going through the initial gloomy tunnel of misery and emerge into an intriguing thriller majoring on the effects of abduction on the remaining family as much as the why and the who of the event.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: August 2014|
Jenny has a busy life – GP, wife of Ted, a successful surgeon, mother to twin teenage lads Ed and Theo and a teenage daughter (Naomi) to name but some of the roles. Now she tells herself that she should have realised Naomi's mood swings and higher heels signified more than a phase. If she had, Jenny may have prevented her beloved child's disappearance; at least looking back on it that's what she tells herself. As the police investigate, Jenny and her remaining family have to come to terms with not only what has happened, but what it reveals about each of them.
GP and graduate from the prolifically successful Bath Spa creative writing programme Jane Shemilt has scattered fragments from her real life in this, her debut novel. Jenny herself is a GP, her husband is in the same line of work as Jenny's Ted and all live in Bristol. However here the similarities end (or at least I hope so for Jane's sake!) as she – and we – step back to witness the gaping hole caused by the disappearance of Naomi.
Actually I'm getting a little ahead of myself. I should start with a plea: if, like me, your heart sinks during the almost impenetrable but understandable gloom and misery of the initial chapters please don’t let it put you off. Once the lead-in finishes and the investigation starts, we're hauled in by an intrigue that will prevent us from even thinking of putting the book down as the twists and revelations start to materialise.
The book blurb promises us that the story is not as straightforward as it seems – it doesn't lie! You may be able to guess the perpetrator early on as there are some heavy hints but that's not the point. The fascination comes from the unobvious web-like connections and motives that emerge in the alternating past-and-present chapters.
By the way, those who fear unintelligible time jumps need not worry – all is perfectly clear and follows logically. The travel back and forth across the 14 months are there to prove that it takes time to solve a case like this rather than the Hollywood open-and-shut-in-90-minutes version. In this way Jane is able to relate the strain on the family unit over a life-like period, a facet aided by her qualifications in psychology and aptitude for deftly inserted research.
Although we see all from Jenny's third person narrative viewpoint, only learning as much about the others as she's willing to tell us, we still feel Theo's pain. Cracks that had been there before Naomi's vanishing become fissures. The couple face self-recrimination as Jenny also has to come to terms with the fact that she didn't know Naomi – or indeed the twins – as well as she'd thought. (Something all parents go through but normally not in such extreme circumstances.)
The internal monologue and desperation of a mother in limbo reach out to us, providing another layer of authentication while we're cleverly led to question the motives of those who appear to seek to help.
No, it may not be a bundle of laughs, but Jane has woven the combination of working parent guilt and the burgeoning independence of teen years into compulsive reading, evidenced by the award nominations that are already piling up. In fact this is an author who has the ability to wind a readership's collective imagination around her little finger right to that devastatingly unexpected, haunting ending. Trust me, if you don't shout 'No!!!' at that last page (yes, with at least three exclamation marks) it will only be because you're on public transport at the time.
(Thank you to the folks at Penguin for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you'd like to read another book about a missing child but this time from an unusual angle, we definitely recommend Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam. If you'd like to read more about the shock of a parent whose child turns out a little differently to how they've been raised, just as eagerly we point you towards The Good Father by Noah Hawley.
You can read more book reviews or buy Daughter by Jane Shemilt at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Daughter by Jane Shemilt at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.