Friday, 11 March 2016

Book Review: WHAT SHE NEVER TOLD ME by Kate McQuaile

What She Never Told Me

What She Never Told Me
Author: Kate McQuaile
Publisher: Quercus
Read: March 2016

Synopsis (Goodreads): 

'I talked to my mother the night she died, losing myself in memories of when we were happiest together. But I held one memory back, and it surfaces now, unbidden. I see a green postbox and a small hand stretching up to its oblong mouth. I am never sure whether that small hand is mine. But if not mine, whose?'

Louise Redmond left Ireland for London before she was twenty. Now, more than two decades later, her heart already breaking from a failing marriage, she is summoned home. Her mother is on her deathbed, and it is Louise's last chance to learn the whereabouts of a father she never knew.

Stubborn to the end, Marjorie refuses to fill in the pieces of her daughter's fragmented past. Then Louise unexpectedly finds a lead. A man called David Prescott . . . but is he really the father she's been trying to find? And who is the mysterious little girl who appears so often in her dreams? As each new piece of the puzzle leads to another question, Louise begins to suspect that the memories she most treasures could be a delicate web of lies.

My thoughts:

After the sudden death of her vivacious and somewhat eccentric mother, Louise Redmond fears that she may never discover the answer to the secret which had stood between them for most of her adult life – the identity of her biological father. Born an illegitimate child in Ireland in the 1960’s, the topic has never been open for discussion and has been the cause of much pain and longing for Louise. Now the only hope left is that she may find some clues amongst her mother’s paperwork, or from her mother’s estranged family. Burdened by her raw feelings of loss and grief there is also the breakdown of her marriage to deal with, as well as some strange flash-backs to a small girl and a green mail-box which trigger panic attacks every time Louise thinks about them. What is it about the child that would cause such an intense emotional reaction? Even tracking down her estranged uncle cannot shed light on the mystery. Then Louise makes a discovery which may threaten the reality she has come to believe – even her own identity.

I loved the premise of the story – if well executed, family secrets make great material for mystery and suspense. And initially the book hit it off well for me – Louise, the narrator of the story, is a likeable and interesting woman in search of her own identity. It is obvious from the start that there are skeletons in the family closet which will throw Louise’s world into turmoil, and I looked forward to the slow unravelling of the clues. Unfortunately a few parts of the story did not work for me. I found Louise’s constant angst about her failing marriage distracting, whilst parts of the mystery, which could have been explored in more detail, were summarised almost too quickly in order to move the story along. Whilst her failing marriage was an integral part of Louise’s emotional state at the time, I got a bit irritated about the couple’s on again – off again relationship, when the real focus of the novel should have been the family secret she set out to explore. With a bit of tweaking and editing, the story could have made a great psychological thriller, but I felt that a lot of elements of suspense were lost along the way. Despite the message of practising forgiveness to save a relationship (even a betrayal that I felt was almost unforgivable), I found myself wishing that Louise would move on, find an inner strength she never knew she had and solve the mystery on her own as the independent strong woman she could have been.

All in all, a light and enjoyable read with a lovely Irish setting and some interesting characters – just not the psychological thriller I had hoped for.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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