Friday, 24 November 2017

She's Not There - Joy Fielding

Maybe it is my imagination but there seems to be a plethora of missing child books around at the moment. Or possibly it is one of those weird synchronicity episodes where they’ve come my way so I can offer a more viable review by virtue of having more material to compare. A means of sifting the wheat from the chaff, the good from the bad or, more accurately, the not as good.

This latest read from Joy Fielding is one of the good. Very gripping and emotional. I’ve not read any of her previous books so my comments relate purely to this one story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and was reluctant to put it down. It is a fine example of a book that relies on the strength of the characterisations to hold the narrative together and advance it. Caroline Shipley synthesises this whole story ably abetted by her daughter Michelle. Two strong women dealing with unenviable emotional burdens. And they’re palpable. You can feel their angst and tension. The relationship between Caroline and Michelle is superb, an acutely observed portrait of teenage/maternal wrestling where neither party seems aware that it is love that drives them both.

Certainly for UK readers, and maybe the awareness is wider but this is a missing child story and parallels with the Madeline McCann case are undeniable. Whether Madeleine’s case motivated this story and with it the underlying theme of the role of the press and media in circumstances like these. I have no idea but it wouldn’t surprise me. This story doesn’t put the press in a very good light. It’s a well structured fiction using a dual chronology between the past and present and the final two chapters demonstrate a skilful and experienced writer who understands her readers.

And so we have on the one hand a tight ‘almost’ thriller and on the other a considered examination of how one woman deals with a mother’s worst nightmare and the effect that has on families and extended families. I don’t do spoilers so I can say no more other than read the book!

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