Daughter – Jane Shemilt

Published August 2014

How well do you really know those you love?

Jenny loves her three teenage children and her husband, Ted, a celebrated neurosurgeon. She loves the way that, as a family, they always know each other’s problems and don’t keep secrets from each other.

But when her youngest child, fifteen-year-old Naomi, doesn’t come home after her school play and a nationwide search for her begins, secrets previously kept from Jenny are revealed.

Naomi has vanished, leaving her family broken and her mother desperately searching for answers. But the traces Naomi’s left behind reveal a very different girl to the one Jenny thought she’d raised. And the more she looks the more she learns that everyone she trusted has been keeping secrets.

How well does she really know her sons, her husband? How well did she know Naomi? If Jenny is going to find her, she’ll have to first uncover the truth about the daughter she thought told her everything.



My thoughts

Jenny and Ted are busy successful doctors with three children, Naomi, Ed and Theo. The perfect middle class aspirational family. One day fifteen year old Naomi goes missing, following a school play. Suddenly their lives are under scrutiny and secrets are brought out into the open. Jenny has to face up to some home truths that her perfect little family is not so perfect. Everybody has something they kept secret. Everyone is consumed with guilt and confusion. What has happened to Naomi?

This is the strangest story. It is a story about the lies we tell ourselves, as well as others. It is about a dysfunctional family, that appears to be ticking along nicely from the outside.

Jenny, the mother, is completely delusional in her attitude towards her family. She thinks her daughter is perfect, not like herself as a teenager. What teenager is perfect and doesn’t keep secrets from their parents? She believes her family to be open and honest with each other. She never really has the time to spend with them. There is always a case at the back of her mind. She is a busy workaholic who is more concerned with her patients and her dog, than her children or husband. I think the dog got the most love and affection in the book.

In some ways, the book feels like a critique on modern day family life. I don’t think the family descriptions are that unusual; tired parents, children who don’t particularly communicate and are left to their own devices and stressful lives. This family just needs to talk and to value each other. This is a family I did not particularly like. It took some time to work out what happened to the family, as the story shifted between the disappearance and a year later. The ending is quite appropriate and satisfying. I approve of the twist.

Overall a rather satisfying read, that kept me guessing til the end. I found Jenny rather self absorbed and annoying. I think that was the point. Very clever!


About Northern Crime

Reviewer with a mind of her own. This is a collection of book reviews, which started in 2014. Mostly crime and odd other genres thrown in. Some I loved. Some I loathed. You get the picture.
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2 Responses to Daughter – Jane Shemilt

  1. crimeworm says:

    Hmm – must admit I wasn’t that enamoured with the sound of this book from the blurb, but your review’s made me think it might actually be quite enjoyable. I think I was a bit sick to death of family-with-a-secret books, after my (self-inflicted) binge on family psychological thrillers – hence cleansing the palate with a nice tough Dennis Lehane! But your (excellent, as ever) review has made me think that, when I’m ready to tackle a book like this again, it’ll be Daughter I reach for. Also be interested in Cleo’s take on it – bet she’s raced through it!

  2. Christine says:

    I’m totally with you. I get so annoyed with the polite middle class so called psychological thrillers that are in abundance. Give me a good filthy murder any day with a bit of something different. ‘Daughter’ is worth reading because it’s more of a dark morality tale.

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