Book review: She’s Not There by Joy Fielding

Saturday, January 27, 2018 Permalink

I’ve read almost all of Joy Fielding’s books, though Goodreads tells me I’ve read only two (so most must have been read before I started tracking them there as I once owned far more than that). I came across her book See Jane Run back in the early 1990s and devoured everything she wrote and had written for the next decade (or two).

I requested this book without knowing it wasn’t a new release and it was apparently published in 2016 though completely slipped through my reading radar / net thingy. And it was the perfect way to start the long weekend in Australia. 

Book review: She’s Not There by Joy FieldingShe's Not There
by Joy Fielding
Published by Bonnier Zaffre
on December 14th 2017
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 9781785762758
Pages: 368

A lifetime ago, every year Caroline Shipley looked forward to her wedding anniversary. But then a celebratory trip to Mexico for the occasion with her husband and friends ended in the unsolved kidnapping of her infant daughter, Samantha.

Now, fifteen years after that horrific time, divorced and isolated,Caroline is forced to relive the kidnapping by reporters who call every year on the anniversary of Samantha’s disappearance.

However, this year when the phone rings, Caroline hears the sweet voice of a girl claiming to be her long-lost daughter. Plunged back into the world of heartbreak, suspicion and questions that led the case to run cold so many years ago, Caroline doesn’t know what or who to believe. But when she starts to figure it out, she finds the answers dangerously close to home.

Very interestingly I made no notes while reading this book. I usually note main characters’ names, key dates or timeframes, relationships and so forth and jot down any thoughts or questions I have along the way. I’ll flag parts of the narrative (quotes, sentences or paragraphs) that leap out at me – good / bad or pivotal – and there’ll be the occasional comment I’m incapable of deciphering days or weeks later when I’m writing the review.

But, for this… nothing. And I suspect it was because I was both engrossed in the unfolding plot; and had no serious qualms to share.

It’s a story I’ve read before…. missing child whose disappearance is solved years later; or… lives rocked by their return. Or – more often – the return of someone claiming to be the long-lost child but with nefarious reasons of their own for turning a still-mourning family’s life upside down.

So, we’re expecting the worst here. Well, at least I am. The teenager who contacts Caroline claims she has no ulterior motive but we know (as do Caroline’s older daughter and ex-husband) that these things don’t end well.

I enjoyed the cast of characters Fielding offers we readers. She alternates for some time, the present with the events of 15 years earlier – when Samantha disappears – and then key events during intervening years. It’s impossible not to engage and identify with the woman who’s tortured herself for so long and lives with guilt and a sense of blame for anything and everything. She’s got a prickly relationship with Michelle, her older daughter who begrudged her mother’s love for her amiable and easy 2yr old sibling.

I’ve read books before which have (kinda) mirrored the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in Italy – from a hotel room as her parents dined out. And we learn Caroline (and Hunter, her ex husband to a far lesser extent) has come under a lot of media scrutiny and become increasingly fragile and distrusting as a result.

I actually kinda guessed the ‘who’ and ‘why’ and it made me wonder if I had (in fact) read this book before though perhaps it was something similar… I’m not sure.

Either way this was an enjoyable read (which Fielding can almost always be guaranteed to provide) and I easily demolished it in a sitting.

She’s Not There by Joy Fielding was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 



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