This is a special review of Daughter, from my online bookclub
When a teenage girl goes missing her mother discovers she doesn’t know her daughter as well as she thought in Jane Shemilt’s haunting debut novel, Daughter.
THE NIGHT OF THE DISAPEARANCE
She used to tell me everything.
They have a picture. It’ll help.
But it doesn’t show the way her hair shines so brightly it looks like sheets of gold.
She has a tiny mole, just beneath her left eyebrow.
She smells very faintly of lemons.
She bites her nails.
She never cries.
She loves autumn, I wanted to tell them. She collects leaves, like a child does. She is just a child.
ONE YEAR LATER
Naomi is still missing. Jenny is a mother on the brink of obsession. The Malcolm family is in pieces.
Is finding the truth about Naomi the only way to put them back together?
Or is the truth the thing that will finally tear them apart?
Daughter by Jane Shemilt is an emotional and compelling story about how well you really know those you love most.
My review of Daughter by Jane Shemilt….
As others have commented the book to and fro’d between the time around the date of Naomi’s disappearance (the daughter) and a year later written as present time to the characters lives. The back and forth switch in time didn’t bother me too much as I’ve read quite a few similar style books and I’m quite getting used to the style but I did struggle with sections of the storyline that to me just seemed unbelievable or out of the blue. I found the lack of the family pulling together through such an ordeal hard they all seemed to go through there own breakdown in their own way which seemed rather lonely, I found there were parts where I felt for Jenny (Naomi’s mum) losing a child is any mums worst nightmare but there were other times in the story I found it hard to be sympathetic, I didn’t gel at all with the characters of the rest of the family, Ted (dad) never seemed to be around and Ed and Theo (twin brothers) seemed self absorbed (and quite selfish at times). I have to say my worse gripe has to be Michael (the police officer) he was just unprofessional there were section were I found myself silently screaming at the book saying “they would never say or do that” and without giving away the end of the book that just ruined the book for me though not necessarily as unbelievable but that it smeared the whole police investigation even more.
Overall it wasn’t drival after all I managed to finish reading it but not high on the recommending to other pile either.
Before I begin my review, I was haunted by the similarities between the fictional family and that of the McCanns i.e. Two ‘Doctor Parents’, three children (two of whom are twins) and although the ages, stages and genders were changed, it felt awfully close to that real life misery mystery….
Every parent’s worst nightmare – a missing child. Written from the mother’s perspective of events, the reader experiences her unravelling not only of the events but her sanity too. Busy (very important?) professional people, the parental style of non-involvement is justified by the young people being ‘allowed’ to grow into their own lives – irrespective of their ability to do so cognitively and emotionally.
Both parents are wrapped up in their own highly pressurised world, each choose their respective escape routes (art and sex) making them even less accessible to their offspring. Absent parenting, flexible boundaries, lack of nurture (even decent food provision is not good)…… A recipe for crisis.
I like books that work in different time frames to tell a story but in this book, the transitions from one to another felt awkward. The subject matter was excruciating for someone who has lived with children going through this most challenging age of ‘too old for this / too young for that’ and not enjoyable for this reason.
The agony, anguish, emotional destruction of the mother was well portrayed…. As was the ‘guilt’ that pervades the soul of the working mum in whatever her chosen job (although the latter only came through in the mother’s reflections after the crisis). Father predictably avoided the emotional challenge by getting even busier and even less accessible to his wife and children. The story was probably paced correctly but the constant emotional dross was draining to this reader and made the book feel extraordinarily lonnnng.
I would give the book high 3 stars because there is quality in the writing and I would try the author’s work again. However, I would give up earlier on a non Book Club read if the ‘anguish factor’ took away from enjoyment rather than added to it – as it did with this book did.
Daughter. I thought this book would have been right up my street and was looking forward to a good read. In reality after reading only about 10% I put it down. I didn’t like the writing style too much tooing and frowing through time for me. However I did pick it up again and finished it, but only because I am stubborn and it was to be my first book review. I still didn’t enjoy the writing style as it reminded me of a book trying to be written like a film (rather than a film adapted from a book, if that makes sense). I liked the storyline just not the style.
I seem to be in the minority but I actually really enjoyed the book, it took me about a day or so to read as I wanted to find out the ending! I thought it was well written, the characters were good and it did have a few twists I wasn’t expecting. I wouldn’t have picked the book out for myself as a general rule but I’m glad I was given the opportunity to read it and share my thoughts with others. Fan pick from the group again for me.
About the author
Jane Shemilt, a writer and G.P, lives in Bristol with her husband and five children. Jane completed a Joint BSc Honours Degree in Psychology and Physiology at Bedford College, London University; then Medicine with Honours at the Royal Free Medical School, followed by a Diploma in Creative Writing, gained with Distinction at Bristol University. As well as being featured in medical publications, Jane’s work was selected for the Bristol Review of Books and a selection of her travel writing was published by the British Tanzania Society in 2009.
Practising is Jane’s novel in progress that explores the aftermath of a teenager’s disapperence.
It examines the dangers that lurk for those who take their luck for granted; it explores the emptiness at the heart of a contemporary middleclass family, and what happens when doctors play God. It also concerns survival against the bleakest odds; Jenny is driven forwards into life, though the reawakened trail and where it leads will test all her resources.
Genre: mystery, crime, thriller
Print Length: 352 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 3, 2015)
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers