Saturday, June 2, 2018

Review : Daughter by Jane Shemilt

The Daughter
by Jane Shemilt
Release Date: August 28th 2014
2014 Penguin
Softcover Edition; 390 Pages
ISBN: 978-1405915298
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

2 / 5 Stars

Jenny is a successful family doctor, the mother of three great teenagers, married to a celebrated neurosurgeon.

But when her youngest child, fifteen-year-old Naomi, doesn’t come home after her school play, Jenny’s seemingly ideal life begins to crumble. The authorities launch a nationwide search with no success. Naomi has vanished, and her family is broken.

As the months pass, the worst-case scenarios—kidnapping, murder—seem less plausible. The trail has gone cold. Yet for a desperate Jenny, the search has barely begun. More than a year after her daughter’s disappearance, she’s still digging for answers—and what she finds disturbs her. Everyone she’s trusted, everyone she thought she knew, has been keeping secrets, especially Naomi. Piecing together the traces her daughter left behind, Jenny discovers a very different Naomi from the girl she thought she’d raised.

My Thoughts
Daughter is one of those books I really tried hard to like, but the more I read, the more I just couldn't stand the main character, Jenny.  I don't know what it was about her, but I just couldn't warm up to her, even hoping at one point that she was the one involved in the kidnapping.  

I think one of the things that was quite disconcerting, right from the beginning, was the way the book was written.  Bouncing from the present to a year earlier, you already knew that Naomi was still gone, and the police were still searching, kind of taking away from the suspense of the whole story.  And what it actually became was not a mystery or a suspense story, but an introspective look at how much Jenny missed and didn't see, or chose not to see, at the events and family members surrounding her.  It got a bit old, quickly. It also meant that anyone I thought was a suspect was still free, or was not necessarily a suspect, which actually ruined the whole suspense thing for me.  I have to admit I skimmed through the modern sections as they gave away too much information about the back story and I was much more interested in the events surrounding Naomi's disappearance.  Because of the modern point of view, you also discovered what was going on with Naomi's twin brothers during the events surrounding her disappearance which made all of the suspense kind of drizzle away into nothing, to the point where I just wanted to finish the book.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE alternating story lines and time lines, but it just did not work in this novel, at least for me.  It would have been a lot better if the story had just continued along its course as it would have kept the tension and you would not have known the events before they happened.  I feel like a lot of the family dynamics were lost this way. 

Let's go back to Doctor Jenny.  I don't think I would like to have her as my doctor as she just seems so incredibly distracted and out of touch with what is happening around her.  Jade's symptoms were so blatantly obvious even I picked up on it, especially after having a friend's son go through it, and reading that whole chapter with Jenny missing all the clues just made me want to shake her.  Really? After twenty years practicing and the only thing you can account for those symptoms is what you came up with?  And her daughter?  How out of tune do you have to be not to realize something was drastically wrong with your own son and daughter?  First of all, the mood swings and behaviousr changes, the violent and explosive temper, the missing drugs from your bag, and Doctor Jenny still missed the clues.  And hubby, coming home smelling like perfume?  Okay!!  Yes, it's definitely easy to miss things at the beginning, but by this point, you could have slapped her with them and she still wouldn't have seen them.  I just found her so wrapped up in her own little world that I just couldn't empathize with her suffering or her regrets as most of them were her own fault.   

While the writing was good and the author definitely has this ability to draw you in despite the story line, I just couldn't get past the character development of some of these characters and I couldn't get past the confusing behaviour that some of them displayed, some of which made absolutely no sense. For example, I find it hard to believe that a fifteen-year old girl would leave bloodied sheets and wine glasses at her parents' cottage for anyone to find, but sneak around for six months without anyone knowing they were involved and having sex.  I also find it hard to believe that her brother Theo would have been allowed to enter paintings of his naked sister into a school portfolio without some consequences and repercussions, even if she was semi-covered with tree branches.  There at least I understood dad's anger.  And Ed, his anger didn't really make sense as his reasons were never fully explained; he just one day started exploding at Jenny and calling her neglectful.  So where did all this anger come from?  

Daughter is one of those books that, like I said, I really tried to like, but just couldn't.  One of the things that really bothered me was the hinted at explanation that Ed, Theo, and Naomi's problems were because Jenny worked long hours at the clinic and spent all of her time painting and was therefore neglectful of her children, but rarely was this hinted about her husband who spent longer hours away as a neurological surgeon.  When Jenny complained about his long hours, it was always in reference to HER missing out, never about the children, but in her case, it was always about the children.  Stereotypical or what.  So, while the author's writing style did keep me turning the pages, I did get frustrated quite a bit, and I read on, only hoping to finally come to some resolution about Naomi.  Don't even get me started on the ending.  It meant so many people lied to her and I was spluttering at the end.  All of this being said, this novel was an Edgar Award Nominee for Best Paperback Original, so even though I didn't really like it, there were many who did, and I think you need to judge it for yourself.