Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey
Publishing Date: 10th January 2019
Source: Received from the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 336
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
In the award-winning Elizabeth is Missing debut novelist Emma Healey explored grandmother Maud’s attempt to solve a 70-year-old mystery as she succumbed to dementia.
Now, in her dazzling follow-up Whistle in the Dark, we meet Jen, mother to 15-year-old Lana – who has just been found after going missing for four desperate days. Lana can’t talk about the missing days. As her daughter’s life falls apart, Jen turns detective to discover what happened . . .
How do you rescue someone who has already been found?
Jen’s fifteen-year-old daughter goes missing for four agonizing days. When Lana is found, unharmed, in the middle of the desolate countryside, everyone thinks the worst is over. But Lana refuses to tell anyone what happened, and the police think the case is closed. The once-happy, loving family returns to London, where things start to fall apart. Lana begins acting strangely: refusing to go to school, and sleeping with the light on.
With her daughter increasingly becoming a stranger, Jen is sure the answer lies in those four missing days. But will Lana ever reveal what happened?
Jen Maddox is on holiday with her fifteen-year-old daughter, Lana, when Lana goes missing. Four days later she’s found. It seems that nothing really bad has happened – she’s exhausted but there are no signs of violence. However, Lana insists she has no memory of whatever has happened and refuses to talk about it any more. Lana, together with her mother Jen, returns home to London. Jen tries to resume the normal family life but it turns out that it’s easier said than done – she simply needs to understand what has happened, why Lana went missing, what is happening with her younger daughter. She and her husband Hugh are loving parents of Lana and her older sister, they are a normal family, so why does she feel that she let her daughter down as a mother?
What I loved in this book so much was the relationship between Jen and Hugh. And also their characters, even with Jen’s paranoia and her desire to please Lana in every aspect of their lives – but I think this is the way mothers work, no matter what’s happening. Hugh being the laid – back one was perfectly complementing Jen’s parenting ways. They were so great around each other, there was the lovely easiness between them and it was crystal clear that they are the perfect couple.
I was incredibly grateful for the character of Meg, Jen and Hugh’s eldest daughter. She’s pregnant with her first child and she lives on her own but her occasional visits to her family home were the best moments probably. She was down – to – earth and she’s seen things how they were, and I think I simply needed it in the paranoid world of Jen’s and Lana’s depression and moods. Meg seemed to be the only one who was able to see through Lana, to deliver some home truths, to tell her sister some sharper words, and I think Lana deserved it, because, to be absolutely honest, I was not so convinced about her and this whole depression. I don’t know. I couldn’t put my finger on Lana. But we must appreciate the fact that Lana, mostly seen through her mum’s eyes, WAS an interesting, complex and complicated character, clever and with a sense of humour.
Under the mystery of Lana’s disappearance, I think that the main issue of this book was, in fact, Jen’s insecurity to fail as a mother. She was desperate to do everything as best as she could, to be accepted by her younger daughter, and respected as well, and as much as it made me feel angry towards Lana, with the way she has treated her mother, the way she behaved, I could understand Jen’s needs.
This novel was a real slow – burner, so be prepared. There is not much happening action – wise, but as it is a very character – driven book you’re going to receive brilliant, fleshed – out, relatable characters. Also the way Emma Healey writes about parenting, about all the emotional upheavals, challenges and emotions is very realistic and it rings the bell, as so many of her observations and insights are genuine and true. It was not the easiest read, it was too slow and too often it felt repetitive, recycling the same idea over and over again to be honest, but one that will for sure make you think. I also wasn’t sure how to feel about the end but, in retrospection, I think it was probably the only realistic, possible one. It’s not a twist that is going to change your life and make you go all wow, but it is suitable and I liked that Jen has got her closure – she really deserved it! So altogether, “Whistle in the Dark” is a brilliantly observed, humorous and poignant book about parenting, a brilliant mix of fear, family life and dynamics, insecurity. It’s Intriguing and clever, a real read with difference.
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