Daughter: The things your children don’t tell you

Jane Shemilt’s debut novel Daughter encapsulates every parents’ fear – the day that their child doesn’t come home. Jenny seems to have the perfect life – the perfect neurosurgeon husband, three high-achieving children and the perfect career – until her youngest child, 15-year-old Naomi goes to her school play one night and never comes home. As the hours turn into days and months, the police don’t seem to be getting anywhere, and Jenny is forced to re-examine her relationship not just with her daughter but the entire family. Fresh-faced, education-focused Naomi who apparently doesn’t like the taste of alcohol, doesn’t smoke and barely wears makeup is soon u51GCAP+U-qL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_nravelled throughout the course of Jenny’s memories and the investigation into the disappearance as not being all she seems. The fact that her daughter has been keeping many secrets from Jenny is just as painful as her disappearance, and likewise, Naomi’s twin older brothers, Ed and Theo, seem to be hiding a few secrets of their own – and what of Ted, Jenny’s perfect surgeon husband?

As Jenny discovers more secrets about her daughter’s life, we see how she begins to see her own failings as a mother, and even the problems she has having with her career and marriage. I had a little bit of a gripe with the approach of this novel, which is intended to make us question the idea of parenting, although this perhaps may be to make the reader see the age-old question of whether a working mother can be a good parent – and the guilt that comes with this. Throughout, Jenny asserts that she has been a respectful mother who has given her children space and privacy, and yet there are glaring signs that this has gone wrong, her children have felt neglected, and that she doesn’t have a clue who her children really are. Again, there is a suggestion that it is never easy to know which is worse, being a ‘helicopter-parent’ or being a laid-back parent who gives their child too much freedom and independence.

The only thing which lets this narrative down is the structure – which alternates between the days leading up to and the immediate aftermath of Naomi’s disappearance, and a year later when Jenny is spending her Christmas in an isolated cottage, still searching for her daughter. While this is designed to explore memory and make us see scenes from difference points of time, it also was a little disappointing because it meant that every clue and lead found in the weeks following the disappearance led nowhere a year later. The Then and Now structure works for some novels but not this one – mainly because it makes the build-up slow and undermines the tension.

Without writing in any spoilers for the book, I will say that there are a lot of interesting twists and turns in the novel, although I wasn’t satisfied entirely with the ending of the story. A lot of other readers have agreed with me that the characters and their actions aren’t entirely believable, and that there are times when the characters don’t feel realistic in their actions. At times Jenny becomes a spoilt, middle-class trope for the modern parent who is too neglectful, which makes it a little harder to sympathise with her – yet it also seems that she is vilified so that she is made out to be a bad parent. This is also underscored by the fact that we never really meet the missing teenager herself – Naomi comes across as moody, secretive and mysterious by the people who think they know her.

Overall, this novel is fairly thought-provoking – can we ever completely know the ones we love? Jenny’s seemingly perfect life is only that on the surface, making us question whether it is possible to have it all – the perfect career, family and marriage. The general message of Daughter is that we don’t always know our families – particularly our teenage children – as well as we think we do.

An Evening Walk

Every now and then, I’ll find something unexpected when walking around, even if it’s just in the local neighbourhood around where I live. During an evening walk with my husband recently, we found this beautiful mansion nearby, which I’ve been meaning to visit – the Eastbury Manor House. This is a beautiful large house which was apparently built in Elizabethan (the First!) times, although I’ll admit, as an avid watcher of Downton Abbey it reminded me of the TV show first!

I loved the beautiful, peaceful feel to the house, and the ethereal surroundings of trees and quiet roads, with the glowing lights – so naturally I couldn’t resist from stopping to take a few pictures.

I mean to visit Eastbury Manor House again soon (in the daytime this time), hopefully for tea and a tour, so hopefully will post pictures of the actual grounds, which is meant to be lovely as well!

east manor

Journal Your Ramadan – Day #14: N is for Night

Night-time is becomes a busy time in our household – as the sun sets the kitchen bustles with ovens warming up food, glasses clinking and plates being set out with food; and the lights slowly pop on all over the house as the blanket of night creeps over. (And occasionally I’ll creep out into the garden and whisper ‘I AM THE NIGHT’ as well before the husband shakes his head and drags me back in again.)

I took these photos today to show the view outside my window, it’s difficult to take pictures at night because they seem a little blurry but also surprisingly, the pictures came out a bright blue compared to the dark outside.

So here’s a peek of the clear sky, I tried to looking for the moon but didn’t have much luck, but I’ll keep trying – until then, it’s evening time so back to stuffing my face!

IAMTHENIGHT (1) IAMTHENIGHT (2) IAMTHENIGHT (3)

That Time I Made Cookies

And they came out perfect. I like doing a little baking every now and then, and usually get the recipes from people I know, like one of my sisters who excels at baking.

These are double chocolate chip cookies that I made a batch of, and which I was pleased with because not only did they only take about 10 minutes to bake, they were beautifully soft and chewy and very chocolatey!

coogie

I’m sure I’ll be making more of these again, they got eaten way too fast (I also took a few into the office, but there wasn’t enough for everybody!) – I’m pretty sure there’s a hijabi Betty Crocker in me somewhere!

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Weekend Pretty…A Rainbow Wardrobe

It’s not often I get to have a tidy, pretty wardrobe, and moving into a new house means that I get to re-organise everything I have! I’ve ended up letting the girly-girl interior decorator in my take over my wardrobe this week, and organised all of my dressy Asian outfits into rainbow order. I’m not completely done yet, but here’s an idea of how it’s looking – lots of greens and blue and no yellows!

Yellow sunflower print dress, maybe?

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