Book review: Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Sunday, July 30, 2017 Permalink

In the days I participated in more blog link-ups with US/European book bloggers and reviewers I often heard about books by Lisa Jewell – who I assumed was American, but discovered is English! Her most recent books in particular, sounded to be exactly the sort of books I enjoyed – romantic suspense.

For reasons unknown Jewell’s latest book is my first and I’m glad I finally got around to reading something by the popular author. 

Book review: Then She Was Gone by Lisa JewellThen She Was Gone
by Lisa Jewell
Published by Century
on July 27th 2017
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 1780896417, 9781780896410
Pages: 432

She was fifteen, her mother's golden girl. She had her whole life ahead of her. And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.

It’s been ten years since Ellie disappeared, but Laurel has never given up hope of finding her daughter.And then one day a charming and charismatic stranger called Floyd walks into a café and sweeps Laurel off her feet.

Before too long she’s staying the night at this house and being introduced to his nine year old daughter. Poppy is precocious and pretty - and meeting her completely takes Laurel's breath away.

Because Poppy is the spitting image of Ellie when she was that age. And now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back.

What happened to Ellie?
Where did she go?
Who still has secrets to hide?

I enjoyed this book and read it in a night, but do think it was pretty obvious what happened to Ellie from the beginning and why Poppy looks so much Ellie.

I’d be surprised if readers DIDN’T guess what happened / how it came to be. I note Jewell’s author’s note about the book being a bit twisted and her editors having to talk her down from the ledge a little. I have to admit I would have liked a bit more of a twist, as I felt as I was kinda waiting to get what I knew confirmed and then move on to the intricacies of the fall-out and exactly who knew what.

Because I think that is this book’s strength – we spend much of the book wondering: what Floyd knew; and / or what Floyd did. And – of course – what will happen now?

I did wonder, as I said, if there was going to be some extra twist and I guess there was in a way as the conclusion pans out (ultimately) in a pretty unexpected way, which I found exceedingly sad but didn’t take away from my enjoyment.

I adored Poppy though I’m not sure I’d cope with a real life version of the somewhat precocious 9yr old. Laurel sums her up.

Poppy is clearly a strange child, who is both charmingly naive and unsettlingly self-possessed. She is cleverer than she has any need to be, but also not as clever as she thinks. 29% through novel

Laurel however was hard to warm up to.

Laurel has always been a glass-half empty type of person. She could find much to complain about in even the most pleasant of scenarios and could condense the joy of good news into a short-lived moment, quickly curtailed by some new bothersome concern. 3% through novel

She also felt like the mother-from-hell. She seemed like a nice person but the comments she made about her kids (and we know she meant them because we’re in her head) are a bit horrendous – admitting (to us) her regret that it wasn’t her older daughter who disappeared. Hanna…. who describes as her ‘difficult’ child and her ‘tiring’ one. And someone she wouldn’t want to be stuck on a desert island with. And in the present she thinks of Hanna’s life as ‘miserable’ and mentions that neither Hanna nor her brother have ‘set the world alight’.

I do realise, however, that she’s anointed Ellie as the golden child and if she’d not disappeared then her glimmer might have dulled a little for her mother.

There were some obvious questions of logic in terms of the plot itself… when Laurel became suspicious, why didn’t she go to the police, do some sneaky DNA tests? For example.

My only other grumble was a change in points of view towards the end when we switch to first person in the present (to a new character)… which was a teensy bit confusing initially.

I guess I would have liked for Ellie’s fate not to have been quite as obvious but gather Jewell wrote it in a way that we were meant to know what happened and wonder: if Floyd and Poppy’s appearance in Laurel’s life is just coincidence, or something more sinister; which makes this an intriguing read.

I should also mention there’s a sadness or wistfulness about Ellie’s story. I mean, that’s a no-brainer, but even Ellie talks about the ‘kinks’ in the timeline and moments at which – if she, or others had done something differently – her fate might have changed.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell was published by Penguin Random House UK and is now available.

I received an electronic copy of this book for review purposes.