I was offered the chance to read this book by Orion books, and I lept at the chance. This is Eva Hollands debut novel and I love discovering new writers. ‘The Daughters Secret’ was the winner of the 2014 Good Housekeeping magazine novel writing competition. I have no idea what the other entries were like but from the first few pages this novel drew me in and was clearly going to be very good.
This is story of a fairly ordinary although some what privileged family dealing with the aftermath of an event that changed life for them all. Stephanie is now 21, but when she was 15 she ran away with her Geography teacher. He was imprisoned but her mother Ros has spent years reliving those events , living her life with an extreme level of anxiety and trying to not think about what might have happened. Her husband Dan works long hours in London, often staying late at work and she doesn’t see enough of her son Freddy who has lived in the shadow of this event which has inevitably shaped them all. Finally, six years on Ros has stopped torturing herself and is beginning to find some peace, she has longer periods of calm and once again can look forward. This all changes when one morning she receives a call. He (Temperley) is about to be released and she can do nothing to prevent it. What follow is her attempt to protect her daughter and the extremes she is prepared to go to do so.
This is a well paced story, gathering momentum, and building tension as the story develops. It moves between the past and the present seamlessly, gradually revealing key events. Reading this you have the feeling that something is always being held back, so that a continuous ‘fear’ about what might really have happened is generated as the suspense builds. How can we know Stephanie is telling the truth? Can she be trusted? The emotions are intense, Ros’s fierce love for her family, her need to shield Stephanie whatever the cost, combined with Temperley’s aggressive certainty in what he believes is his due.
Apart from Stephanie’s brother, the ‘happy go lucky’ Freddy, the characters are difficult to find any joy in. I swung between feeling sympathy for Ros and frustrations with her for her neurosis and wild imaginings. Dealing with the thoughts of what his daughter did or didn’t do with a man twice her age has left Dan cold and detached. Stephanie is undoubtedly troubled and has aspects to her character which are not particularly likeable and yet it is she who gained my sympathies. Temperley, the perpetrator of the crime is chilling. Eva Holland has done an excellent job in creating a character that made me feel uneasy and slightly fearful whenever he was around.
I never guessed the outcome of this and the ending is excellent; unexpected and yet very fitting.
Eva Holland clearly has a great talent for story telling. I look forward to seeing what comes next from her.
Thank you to Orion Books for sending this to me for an honest review.