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 disintegration of family life is demonstrated in this story which focuses on the disappearance of teenager, Naomi. On the surface, it would seem that her parents, Jenny and Ted, both busy professionals, have their family under control, but the cracks which start to appear in the aftermath of Naomi’s disappearance show just how fragile is the gap between survival and complete devastation. The story is told in alternative chapters, mainly from Jenny’s perspective, and initially, it’s difficult to keep a grasp on what is happening in terms of time scale but eventually, the style of writing becomes easier to understand, and a story starts to emerge of family secrets, devastating lies and overwhelming tragedy.
For a debut novel, the writing is accomplished with some interesting observations made about families and the role each member must play in the bigger picture of family life. However, there were some gaps were I would have liked a little more of an in depth study. For example, I would have liked to have learned a little more about Ted, he was an interesting father figure but was peripheral rather than a shared central focus. Unfortunately, much as I wanted to like Jenny, I didn't, she irritated me so much that I had little sympathy for her plight, which, in a way, sort of spoiled the book for me. I wanted to be more emotionally involved and I was disappointed that I didn't feel more empathy with any of them.
Overall, I thought the book was an interesting look at the dynamics of family life. The final dénouement when it comes is the best part of the story and is emotional and in light of how I felt about Jenny, entirely appropriate.
My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for my ecopy of this book.