The Daughter is Jane Shemilt's debut novel.
How's this for a 'grab your attention and keep you reading until you're going to be tired in the morning opening line'....
"If only. If only I"d been listening. If only I'd been watching. If only I could start again, exactly one year ago."
Jenny and her husband Ted are parents to teenagers Naomi and twins Theo and Ed. They're both busy physicians and there just never seems to be enough time to keep on top of everything - things get missed. In this case, it's Naomi who goes missing.
Shemilt tells the story of this family from the perspective of Jenny then - just before Naomi's disappearance - and now, one year later with Naomi still missing. I loved this dual narrative. A hint or a line from the past or a remembered nuance sparks a segue to the present and back again. With hindsight, Jenny relives the months leading up to Naomi's disappearance. Did she focus on herself too much? What did she miss? How did she not act on the changes she noticed in her daughter? How could she be blind to what was happening in her family?
Shemilt's story tells the story of a horrific loss in a seemingly idyllic family - and exposes the secrets and problems beneath that exterior gloss. But the pressing question is what happened to Naomi? Is she still alive? And Jenny comes to realize she didn't really know her daughter at all....
The publisher's blurb reads: "a compelling and clever psychological thriller". I'm not sure about the thriller label, but The Daughter kept me engrossed from start to finish. I was engaged in Jenny's self recriminations (I did found Jenny difficult to like or feel sympathy for though) and got caught up in the search for Naomi. For me, the book was a slow measured suspense novel, with the focus on the mother rather than the daughter. The ending wasn't quite what I had expected, but as I thought about it, I decided I liked it after all. The Daughter was a good debut and I would pick up the next book from this author. See what you think - read an excerpt of The Daughter.
"While working full time as a physician, Jane Shemilt received an M.A. in creative writing. She was shortlisted for the Janklow and Nesbit award and the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize for The Daughter, her first novel. She and her husband, a professor of neurosurgery, have five children and live in Bristol, England." You can find Jane Shemilt on Twitter.
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