Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell: Review

Looking at it backwards it was obvious all along. But back then, when she knew nothing about anything, she had not seen it coming. She had walked straight into it with her eyes open.

Fifteen year old Ellie Mack: a golden girl with a glowing future, excelling at school, madly in love with her first boyfriend, cherished youngest child of loving parents. Ellie has everything to live for. But Ellie is gone. She simply disappeared one day in 2005, never to be seen again. She was last seen checking her reflection in a car window, on her way to the library. And then she was gone. No clues, no sightings, nothing. The police eventually conclude she has run away, but mum Laurel never believed it. Ellie had no reason to leave home, and every reason to stay.

Ten years later, Laurel hasn't slept properly since 2005. She's lived alone for seven years, waiting for news that never came. Finally, some news does arrive, but far more questions than answers remain.... especially when a new man, Floyd, comes into Laurel's life. Laurel's determination to uncover the truth at all costs, interspersed with snippets from the past and from the points of view of other characters, makes for a seriously enthralling read.

I really don't want to say anything more about the plot; I began this book knowing very little about it, and it was a real voyage of discovery. Knowing more than a very little would spoil it, I think. Missing-child thrillers are ten a penny at the moment, of course, and I approach them with a degree of trepidation (it's a subject which can and sometimes does go badly wrong) but this is something special.

Then She Was Gone is an incredibly compelling, addictive read. The story drew me in right from the start and didn't let go till I emerged out the other end, feeling broken, emotionally wrung out, my head full of the characters and story. (Then I had to go to work, and attempt to function normally!)

There are some great characters here - including one utterly monstrous human being - and all are convincingly drawn. I was especially able to relate to the character of Laurel, who is far from perfect but profoundly driven to learn the truth about what happened to her daughter - as I think any mother would be.

Make no mistake: parts of this book are unremittingly dark - heartbreakingly so. Certain scenes and themes were very upsetting, and packed a massive emotional punch. Honestly, much as I enjoyed the book, I don't know if I could bear to read it again for this reason. I finished it this morning and I  still felt tearful now.

(Lisa's acknowledgements at the end describe her fear, having written the book, that it was simply too bizarre, and her editor's radical and brilliant suggestion to balance out the bizarreness. I'd love to know what that suggestion was!)

We expect nothing less than an excellent read from Lisa Jewell, but she's surpassed herself this time. I think this story will stay with me for a long while.

No comments:

Post a Comment