Thursday, 21 September 2017

Holiday Reads Mini Review #2: THEN SHE WAS GONE by Lisa Jewell

Author: Lisa Jewell
September 2017 on the train from Vigo to Porto 
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐1/2

Book Description:

She was fifteen, her mother's golden girl. She had her whole life ahead of her. And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.

It’s been ten years since Ellie disappeared, but Laurel has never given up hope of finding her daughter.
And then one day a charming and charismatic stranger called Floyd walks into a café and sweeps Laurel off her feet.

Before too long she’s staying the night at this house and being introduced to his nine year old daughter.
Poppy is precocious and pretty - and meeting her completely takes Laurel's breath away.

Because Poppy is the spitting image of Ellie when she was that age.
And now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back.

What happened to Ellie? Where did she go?
Who still has secrets to hide?

My musings:

I’m a huge fan of Lisa Jewell’s writing, so Then She Was Gone was one of my most anticipated new releases for 2017. The story starts with Laurel’s POV, and I immediately felt the easy familiarity with her that Jewell seems to achieve so effortlessly with her characters. Laurel’s grief and her efforts at trying to come to terms with her daughter’s disappearance over ten years ago resonated with me and I felt a deep emotional connection with this character throughout the story. I especially liked Laurel’s frank confessions about her feelings towards her husband and other children after Ellie disappeared, and her long journey towards making peace with herself and her family and reestablishing a relationship with her older daughter  (it even made me a bit teary at one point).

For me, this connection was unfortunately lacking with the other narrator, whose name I will not divulge here for fear of giving away spoilers – but anyone who has read the book will know who I am talking about. Personally, I have never been a fan of reading a story from the POV of a psychopathic character because I think that very few authors can pull this off in a way that the person is both believable and relatable on some level  - I just don’t “do” repulsive characters very well. In this instance, I really struggled to connect, which stalled the story a bit for me. I felt that a lot of the subtleties in Jewell’s writing that usually flesh out her characters and make them real to me were missing in this person and he/she needed to have either a few more redeeming features or background to explain some of their actions and motives. This was a slight disappointment for me, as I usually find Jewell’s character development faultless and am normally able to empathize with even her most flawed protagonists. Perhaps these chapters would have worked better for me from an omniscient narrator, but this is purely a personal preference and other readers will undoubtedly disagree with me on that.

Whilst the general story was nothing new, I enjoyed the details that made it different from similar books in the genre, even though I found a few logistics slightly puzzling and somewhat far fetched. I noted Jewell’s confession at the end of the book that her original draft was too twisted for the publisher, which immediately piqued my interest as I think I would have liked a few more unexpected twists!

Despite my minor quibbles I enjoyed the story and found it hard to put it down. So whilst Then She Was Gone is not my favourite from the author, it was an enjoyable mystery with some unusual elements that set it apart from others in the genre, which will undoubtedly appeal to many readers. Jewell’s writing is as ever engaging and captivating and I look forward to her next book.

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