STOP PRESS!! STOP PRESS!! Bestseller alert!
Tonight I’m going to Bristol for the launch of Daughter by Jane Shemilt. Published at the end of August, this compelling and beautifully crafted novel about a teenage girl who goes missing from a seemingly happy family has already made it into Richard and Judy’s list and has been at or near the top of several of the main bestseller lists.
Jane, a former GP who lives in Bristol, was a fellow-student on the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and, as you might expect, did extremely well. Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to be a member of a wonderful writing group which Jane was instrumental in starting and often generously hosts. The group includes several published writers and on Wednesday most of us were there to toast Jane’s success in champagne which she very kindly supplied! I was proud to get my copy of the book signed by the author – I always love it when friends sign their books for me – and am enjoying reading the final version, having seen it through several of its drafts. As people often say, it’s amazing how much more impressive a book looks when it’s got a cover and proper pages – not that Jane’s book was not impressive before.
Daughter has been variously labelled a literary novel, a literary thriller and a crossover novel. Not that these labels matter: they’re only there for the convenience of the book trade. What they are saying, however, is that while the book has a thriller/crime novel-type plot (daughter disappears, police are called in, clues are followed up and lead to the ending) it has depth and subtlety and much beautiful writing. Beyond the plot itself it’s about the nightmare of losing a child and the breakdown of apparently stable relationships. But it’s also – as Jane eloquently pointed out in her interview with Richard and Judy – about coming to terms with loss and moving on. Jenny, mother of Naomi the eponymous daughter, is an artist and her artwork is part of her journey back into life, as are her relationships with the people she meets and with the natural world. As she discovers more about what has happened to her daughter she realises too how little she has known about her family and how blinkered her life has been. A mother with a demanding career and too little time, she questions her own priorities in a way that will strike a chord with many women.
Daughter is a novel well worth reading. I wish Jane continuing success with it, and with the next one which is due to be published next year. Here she is at a reading that she gave at Durdham Down bookshop. Thanks for the picture to Tanya Atapattu, also pictured.