It has never really struck me before how much we take light for granted. I mean, if I can’t see what I am doing, a quick flick of a light switch renders everything visible. My productivity is not restricted to daylight hours and with street lights and car headlights, it is easy to move around at night. Kate Fosse’s novel is not infused with much light at all. It is dark – both actually and figuratively.
Connie is the taxidermist’s daughter. In a gloomy cottage at the edge of the waterlogged Sussex marshes, she practises the skills of breathing art into dead birds. She learned the craft from her father, Gifford, whose heavy drinking forces him into his own dark places. Connie has gaps in her memory following a childhood accident, but flashes of recollection mean she is beginning to recall her early years. When the lifeless body of a young woman is washed ashore close to Connie and Gifford’s house, the discovery of the body coincides with the disappearance of two more local men. As Connie’s memory improves, events begin to come together in a disturbing tableau.
This novel is almost unrelentingly dark. The young Davey provides some light relief, and there is some romantic interest for Connie, but the final denouement is macabre and shocking. The suspense builds throughout the novel, so much so that as the plot approached its climax I was yelling at Connie: “don’t open the door, just don’t go in there!”
There is an element of sexual violence in the plot, highlighting the fact that such aberrations are not a modern phenomenon, just more widely reported and sensationalised nowadays.
‘The Taxidermist’s Daughter‘ has received plenty of praise and I can also recommend it. But not if you are squeamish – or need cheering up!
Half way through reading Eva Holland’s novel I dreamed that I had killed my baby: she had got too hot, so I wrapped her in cling film for warmth. Unfortunately though, I left her outside a lift and she died. The reason I mention this, is because ‘The Daughter’s Secret‘ tapped into that deep seam of anxiety which comes as part of the package of motherhood. Most of us are able to suppress it most of the time, telling ourselves that serial rapists, ravaging fire and motorway pile-ups are the exception rather than the norm. We push our fears to the back of our minds and get on with the school run. But Rosalind, mother of Stephanie, struggles to keep her anxiety under control at the best of times. So when her daughter goes missing and is found to have disappeared in the company of her Geography teacher, Nate Temperley, Ros’ worst fears are realised.
The novel opens at the point where Ros discovers that Temperley is about to be released from prison. Stephanie is struggling to cope at University, resorting to alcohol to blot out her pain and so her parents bring her home. Desperate to protect her daughter from her abductor’s influence, whilst battling her own personal demons, Rosalind is once again caught in a spiral of distress. The author exposes secrets and lies, as well as the role of instinct and desire within her character’s lives.
This thriller was the winner of the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition in 2014, an accolade which may send out a subliminal message that it is cosy, chick-lit fiction for women. But it is certainly not a comfortable read, concentrating as it does on the tensions of motherhood; as we try guide our children safely into adulthood, we crave to pull them back when they are threatened. The writing is taut and incisive, keeping me occupied for several hours and lingering in my mind even when I wasn’t reading. A great debut, although probably not for you if you tend to worry about your kids!
Thank you to NetGalley for my copy of this book.