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The perfect family… or the perfect lie?
To the outside world, Gemma Bradley has it all – a doting husband, high-flying career and two delightful kids – but inside the four walls of her tastefully renovated home, she is a mother at her wits’ end who has given too many last warnings and counted to ten too many times.
When a child’s scream pierces the night, Gemma’s neighbour does what anyone would do: she calls the police. She wants to make sure that Rosie, the little girl next door, is safe.
Gemma knows she hasn’t done anything wrong, but the more she fights to defend the family she loves, the more her flawless life begins to crumble around her. Is the carefully guarded secret she’s been keeping suddenly in danger of breaking free?
When Rosie disappears, Gemma thinks she only has herself to blame. That is, until she discovers that Rosie has been keeping dark secrets of her own in a pink plastic diary.
Distraught and terrified, Gemma doesn’t know where to turn. The only thing she knows is that her daughter’s life is in danger…
The thoughts of VeilysReviews:
This has actually been quite a difficult review for me to write. For many different reasons. I shall do my utmost to explain.
Within the first couple of chapters we are introduced to Gemma, Rosie & Mira. The Mother, the daughter & the neighbour respectively. These three make up the central cast around which the rest of the characters and the story revolves.
Gemma is a mother of two, soon to be three. Her whole life appears to be made up of contrasting parts.A career woman with a demanding job and a high figure salary to boot. It’s clear almost instantly that this is of her own volition and choreography. She loves her job, thrives on work, is comfortable in that environment. However, It’s equally clear that she struggles at home, doesn’t have the same confidence. Gemma has a clearly loving and tender relationship with her son. Where as she has a volatile and fractious one with her daughter Rosie.
It’s obvious to the reader that Rosie is a somewhat difficult child. Prone to tantrums and screaming fits. A contrary child who seems to bring out the worst in her mother and herself when they spend any sort of time together. It’s clearly a strained relationship and one where the mood can change on the flip of a coin.
Mira, the neighbour. The archetypal nosey neighbour. She hears the screams of the child. Night after night, on a regular basis. Can she in good conscience ignore these? Is she genuinely concerned for the welfare of the child? Or is there something deeper, more personal pushing forwards and manifesting in the shape of neighbourly concern?
Now, this is where I find it difficult to write. The premise sounds good, yes? I thought so too. I started reading this and I did struggle a bit. I perservered but seemed to find it hard going. However, the further into it I got, no matter how much I struggled, I found I couldn’t leave it. I wanted, needed to know what happens in the end. It’s an extremely hard read regarding the subject matter alone, of that there is no doubt. In terms of Gemma as a person, and her personality. Personally, I liked her. The authors portrayal of her is honest, deep and flawed. She faces and acknowledges her own personal demons, even if she’s not ready to admit these in her public persona. At times throughout this novel, she feels distraught, despair, desperate & alone. I have to say that I was quite invested in Gemma by this point and I truly did feel for her and her situation. Dealing with the authorities involved in the real world, can inflict these emotions and her frustration and anger is all too real. What’s harder for her is that the cause, or the catalyst, in this whole scenario, is her 10 year old daughter, Rosie.
Rosie comes across as a bit of a diva. On the face of it, before we are told any in depth information or get to know her, this is how she seems. I can totally relate to this as I have a 10 yr old myself. Rosie is a disruptive child, her attitude towards her mother causing friction in the wider family unit. It’s only towards the end of the story that any of it becomes clearer as to why she acts like she does. I struggled to find any likeability in this little girl at all i’m sorry to say. Even when I knew the full story. I had some sympathy but still didn’t like her. Rosie’s narrative is told through the medium of a diary. All her thoughts and feelings are expressed in it. My only issue here is that I found the language used to be a bit immature at times for the age Rosie was supposed to be. As I said, having a 10 year old daughter myself it was difficult not to make the comparison.
Mira, the next door neighbour who just cannot help but stick her nose in where it’s neither needed nor wanted. This character, above all others, I found the most difficult to stomach. Right from the initial introduction to her, I could feel my hackles rising. The initial dislike turned to deep loathing by the time the story ended. Her actions in the present, were all influenced by her own experiences in the past. Letting this cloud her judgement in the rationality of dealing with the situation she feels is happening in front of her. People like this, in real life, are the most dangerous as what they do can literally tear families apart, destroy lives and facilitate this ongoing behaviour in future generations.
The story on the whole is a slow burner. It’s a steady pace the whole way through. The author is adept at portraying the tension that builds up and does an excellent job at character progression. The storyline, whilst a good one and tackled well is a difficult subject. On the whole, the plotline develops well and is believeable. My only issue with this, is the actions of all involved in the last few chapters. I felt somewhere along the way here it really did stray from could-be-real-life to definite fiction. On the whole though a good, solid read.
About the author:
Clare lives with her husband and their two daughters in Surrey, where her little green shed at the bottom of the garden provides a haven for her writing life. Before becoming a writer, she enjoyed a career in television, as a researcher in documentaries and then as a script editor in drama at the BBC and Channel Four, where her love of storytelling took hold.