Friday 12 September 2014


Book review: Daughter by Jane Shemilt

My edition: paperback, published on 28 August 2014 by Penguin, 390 pages.


She used to tell me everything.

They have a picture. It'll help.

But it doesn't show the way her hair shines so brightly it looks like sheets of gold.

She has a tiny mole, just beneath her left eyebrow.

She smells very faintly of lemons.

She bites her nails.

She never cries.

She loves autumn, I wanted to tell them. She collects leaves, like a child does. She is just a child.



Naomi is still missing. Jenny is a mother on the brink of obsession. The Malcolm family is in pieces.

Is finding the truth about Naomi the only way to put them back together?

Or is the truth the thing that will finally tear them apart?


Jenny is a busy mother of three; fifteen-year-old Naomi and the slightly older twin brothers Ed and Theo. As both herself and her husband Ted are doctors, they're not home as much as the average parents but they pride themselves on having three self-sufficient teenagers that can take care of themselves without much complaining and without burning the house down. So when one faithful night their daughter Naomi goes missing, they instantly know something bad has happened and she has been abducted. After all, their perfect daughter would never do anything as reckless as run away from home herself, would she?

The story is told in a series of flashbacks interspersed with the present tense, taking place one year after Naomi's disappearance. The investigation is still ongoing but as Jenny reflects on the days just before and just after her daughter went missing she slowly connects the dots to what ultimately leads to some answers to the many questions that have been consuming her life for the past year, not to mention made the relationship with her husband and sons suffer greatly in the process.

Daughter was not what I was expecting, in a good way. Partly influenced by the cover design and sinister marketing campaign for the novel, I was under the impression that this would be a thriller, bordering on horror, which isn't something I would not normally pick up to read. So I was pleasantly surprised then when the story turned out to be much more realistic and emotionally gripping than my first impression. I found myself engrossed by the vivid descriptions of a parent's worst nightmare, which was simultaneously horrifying and compelling. The fact that my own sister is also called Naomi and is of a similar age to the daughter within the story that goes missing heightened the realism for me, which made it an even more intense read than it already was.

I do have to say that I was a bit confused during the first few chapters by the names of the male characters. I understand why Ed and Theo had names so similar to their father Ted, people often name their children after relatives after all, but when I was still coming to grips with the various characters within the story it did trip me up that they all sounded samey and more than once I made the mistake of thinking Jenny was referring to her husband when in actual fact it was one of her sons, and vice versa, which made it a little more difficult to get into the story.

Nonetheless this was for the most part a terrific read, where all throughout I was quite literally on the edge of my seat as secrets were revealed and the mystery behind Naomi's disappearance became both more intriguing and more messed up as the story moved along. It's a novel that you probably don't want to be reading if you have a distant teenager yourself, it's far too realistic and you'd only want to lock them in their room for their own safety and never leave the house again, but it's certainly an eye-opener to what can go on in the life of a modern-day teenager and a warning to parents everywhere to keep an eye on their children, even when they're at that age where they think they're all grown-up.

I found this an incredibly compelling and moving novel, but unfortunately the final few pages ruined it somewhat. I am not sure why author Jane Shemilt decided to include this particular twist but for me it didn't enhance the story. Instead it detracted from an otherwise satisfying reading experience by feeling inconsistent with the rest of the novel and raising fresh questions that were left unanswered. While the ending was needlessly frustrating, if you can contain your curiosity and refrain from reading those final few pages, this is a very satisfying read indeed.

You can purchase the novel from Waterstones, or your own preferred retailer.

Would you like to know more about the author? You can connect with her online at:


Twitter: @Janeshemilt

Many thanks to the publisher for an advance copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.


  1. There are adverts for this book littered all over the London Underground so I've been really curious about this one. It's a shame the ending ruined it for you as it seemed like it was a really great book. Think I'll be adding this to my wishlist :) Great review!

    Laura @ What's Hot?

    1. I've seen those too, and I thought that the tagline (something along the lines of "There's a stranger in your daughter's room... it's your daughter") sounded really creepy, but it turned out to be quite different. Overall this was a fantastic read, just those final few pages didn't work for me.


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