I reviewed Jane Shemilt’s second novel, The Drowning Lesson, a couple of weeks ago and I figured, as I compared the two, it was time I reviewed her debut. Daughter deals with a lot of the same themes as The Drowning Lesson; a mother desperately longs for her missing child. I read it under a tree in France over summer in less than a day… I was fairly hooked from the start!
I really liked the way that time periods shifted quite rapidly. From one year after to one year before, the night of to seventeen days later. The story moves rapidly through time periods, always taking us back to a year after Naomi goes missing. Her distraught mother narrates, trying yo piece together clues as to what happened to her daughter.
The biggest difference between Daughter and Drowning Lessons, I think, is the fact that Jenny’s relationship with Naomi is always at the forefront of the story. That complicated mother and teenage daughter relationship is highlighted when Jenny is confronted with the knowledge that she doesn’t really know who get daughter is at all. It plagues Jenny and it was always in my mind as I read; did Naomi leave of her own free will or was she taken? Could a Jenny have done anything to prevent her disappearance? It’s quite a tragic undertone to the story.
The ending was also perfect. Vague enough to represent the turmoil of parents who have lost a child, final enough to satisfy after 390 pages.
It really was a stunning debut. I think it’s very rare to find a first book this good.