Book Review: She’s Not There, by Joy Fielding

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A suspense novel that, from the outset, has echoes of the Madelaine McCann story.

The publishers have chosen a small, faint print which, for someone with failing eyesight like myself, makes reading this book a challenge. Having said this, the storyline deals with guilt, kidnap, secrets, betrayal and fractured family relationships and is well worth reading.

I am not a fan of non-chronological storytelling but Fielding’s double perspective and interchanging chapters giving historical background to present day events adds depth to the built up suspense built. This also has the benefit of allowing the reader to see where the characters have come from emotionally and how their past has influenced their present day personalities.

To celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary Caroline and Hunter arrange a trip to Mexico, accompanied by their two daughters. When they arrive, to Caroline’s surprise they are greeted by friends and family, something Hunter has arranged without her knowledge. Caroline is both happy and disappointed as she was hoping a romantic sojourn may strengthen their dissolving marriage.

On the last day of the holiday, it appears there has been a terrible mix up, with the hotel’s babysitting service claiming the sitter booking had been cancelled and Hunter convincing Caroline that half hourly checking of the children would be sufficient for them to go down stairs and have a final celebratory dinner in the restaurant. It is during this time that Samantha, the younger of the girls, disappears.

Fielding does a great job of implying police, public and media suspicions that the parents are to blame and of the mental anguish of a mother in prolonged shock. Her portrayal of the long-term effects on the remaining child Michelle, whilst a character that was never given to be appealing, tugs at the heart strings and is easily believed. Her reaction when she finds out that a Canadian teen has contacted her mother believing that she is, in fact, Samantha, is one of protection and illustrates the strength of the Mother/Daughter bond even when stretched to its limits.

The ending may surprise you. Your emotional connection to the characters and the story leave you wondering why, but it’s a good book to have in your collection and one, I am sure, you will reread at least once.

Reviewed by Leanne Caune

Rating out of 10:  7

Distributed by: Allen and Unwin
Released: January 2018
RRP: $19.99 paperback

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A suspense novel that, from the outset, has echoes of the Madelaine McCann story. Your emotional connection to the characters and the story leave you wondering why, but it’s a good book to have in your collection and one, I am sure, you will reread at least once.

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