What happen when someone is missing and become a ghost for everyone in particular when a daughter disappear abruptly leaving all the family in the most complete desperation and shock?
It's this one the latest thematic treated in the newest Lisa Jewell's stunning, wonderful book: Then She Was Gone by Penguin on stores this July 27th.
I followed various cases of missing people as a reporter and I found this book extremely beauty, shocking, very well written, realistic, vivid, centered, very focused on story and characters, clear, lucid, and for this reason extremely captivating. The author couldn't imagine anything more beauty, dramatic and shocking in the complexity of events created in the while. When I finished to read this book this afternoon I was "burned out." I felt the story, the characters, their secrets and visible emotions and motivations. This novel is very strong in its complexity.
Captivating remains the main word with which I can define Then She Was Gone from the first to the last page. I couldn't put down this book for a second. I downloaded it yesterday with other eleven ebooks by NetGalley and I thought: OK Let's start with this one by Lisa Jewell.
I had read and reviewed also her previous book: I found You and I was more than satisfied.
Well, it was love at first...word! I couldn't stop to read it.
Lisa Jewell knows how to keep the reader interested and curious.
At the end you cry, but at the same time you are mentally stressed because you read an emotional tale with an emotional end and you can't cope with everything.
There is a partial victory. At the end the reality will be revealed and people will continue to live their life with less questions, more definitive answers but fundamentally with that peace that only a truth defined after a big shock can presents to a family in sufferance after a tragic adventure.
At the same time although the desperation of the tale, the cruelty lived and inflicted by some protagonists, you discover that there is still life.
The book is told with the various voices and point of views of the main protagonists, so you can "experience" also their own feelings and Lisa Jewell in this sense is wonderful entering perfectly in their souls. Feelings, sensations, motivations pathos and sentiments of the various protagonists are fluidly expressed and lived with immense knowledge, of the human beings' dynamics and feelings and interpretated in an hypnotic way entering in the mind of victims, murders, criminals, innocents.
The story is the one of a normal, common Londoner family. Lauren is married with Paul, they have three children in their teenage age, Jake, Hanna and Ellie, the littlest one. Chaotic family, typical problematic, a cat, a tumultuous but happy cheerful life populated by breakfasts, lunches, dinners, school, teenage problems, family routine and the joy of growing up three children. For Lauren and Paul this one was their life.
Ellie is a common teenager, pretty beautiful, plenty of life. She falls in love for Theo and that afternoon they have an appointment, but then she sees her old tutor and the course of her life will change. Forever.
Noelle Donnelly is a pretty weird and hard lady. It's not possible to obtain everything in life, true. We classify normality a life with a husband and some children. For Noelle seeing "this" normality is weird. She doesn't have friends, she spends her time alone. She obtained a degree in math from a prestigious university, Trinity, deciding to choose of tutoring teenagers.
It means she can visits various houses, discovering the life of a lot of young students, and their parents and siblings as well observing the environment where they live in.
She hasn't lived a lot of love-stories and she arrives virgin at a good age of her life when she meets a writer and mathematician, Floyd, author of a book who bewitches her. They don't exactly fall in love. They start a sexual relationship and at some point Floyd asks her for a child. More than 40, the child is conceived but there are difficulties. Once, two times. What to do for not losing the object of her passion?
Ellie experiences some difficulty with math and Noelle Donnelly, Irish origins starts to tutoring her falling in friendship with this girl so different from her. She would have dreamed to being like this girl. Life is so simple for these girls. Boys, school, everything. There are no complexities in these existences. To her, a real mistery. A mistery she discovers to be terribly obsessive.
A suggestion Noelle Donnelly Lauren obtains by Sandy a very nice neighbor.
Just, Noelle is weird with Ellie, she tells her strange things and the girl is too scared for continuing to being tutored by her and she asks to her mom of suspending these lessons. After all she has recuperated why continuing to see this nasty ad inopportune, maybe frustrated lady?
Ellie doesn't reveal to her mom the reasons why she wants to interrupt these lessons, thinking that they're not important, after all.
Noelle is too shocked when she understands that she is unwanted by Ellie. Ellie removed her from her mind in the while and to Noelle this is another shock.
She starts in the while to developing a horrible plan.
And one day, with the promise of a book where she girl would have studied it happened the unimaginable...
Lauren the mom of Ellie re-starts to live a sort of life after Ellie's disappearance, because after a tragedy like this one life is different.
She neglected her children and they abandoned their nest very soon, she neglected to cook after the disappearance of Ellie and children did it with passion and resignation all alone for their parents because the mom was somewhere else, lost in her thoughts, lost in her personal, private, impenetrable desperation that after all was the desperation of everyone else in the family.
She lost Paul, her husband with the time because the dialogue with her not anymore existent. He has a new companion.
Lauren goes on although her new existence is more poor, less populated by people of the past (and there are not a lot in the present) because you don't want to see anymore a lot of people, you don't want to tell all the time what you spent in terms of tears and anger, and unanswered questions.
Ten years after Ellie's disappearance one day Lauren receives a call from a police man. They have found something. Ellie's bag and some remains of Ellie's body. Her baby eaten by wild animals or who knows...
Some weeks after the funeral of Ellie's poor remains, Lauren meets Floyd. She is 55 and her passion for him the one of a teenager. Sex is the most beautiful one she has had from a long while. Floyd the best man she could have dreamed to fall in love for and with. Wonderful, tender, in love, protective. He has two children: Sarah-Jade a model pretty singular but nice born thanks to a relationship ended a lot of time ago and Poppy, the nine years old daughter he had had from Noelle Donnelly.
At first Lauren doesn't see the coincidence with this name and the disappearance of her daughter, just... They are so similar, in many ways. Ellie and Poppy. How can it be possible?
It's the beginning of everything because the heart of a mom can't stop to search for the truth, because the truth is more important than the same life. When Lauren discovers with horror the connection between Noelle Donnelly, the tutor of her daughter with her boyfriend and the similarities between Ellie and Poppy she starts a personal research. Interviews with Noelle Donnelly's relatives in the while disappeared without leaving traces, with her parents in Ireland, searching the lady in the net as well.
Who was Ellie's tutor? Hanna, Ellie's sister will confess to her mom that Ellie didn't like that lady at all and that was why she wanted to suspend the lessons. Ellie, simply, for candor, thought that maybe it was better to avoid certain details to her mother, she kept certain thoughts expressed by her tutor for herself, although these details would have been vital considering what happened later. A message of this book can be this one: dialogue in families,less discretion.
A missing person is like a phantom and that's the scariest part of the tale.
A disappearance leaves people astonished, shocked, without answer, without a body, and mainly without any kind of certainty and loads of questions. It's one of the biggest disgraces in this life compared to the one of losing a child. In this novel Lisa Jewell mixes superbly, dramatically well these two factors; the disappearance and the person disappeared: a child, the most precious character that a mother and a family can think at.
The complexity of what happens to Ellie while she decides to enters in the house of her tutor Noelle Donnelly for the promised book remind us at the case Fritz or Natascha Kampusch, in Europe kept segregated per years, mixing the story with elements of more recent horrifying stories as well.
It is terrible to read these pages but also interesting because we will seeing them reflected under the perspective lived by Noelle and Ellie.
I don't want to reveal more.
Floyd the man of a lot of secrets has been seen by Lisa Jewell as a character who at the end will choose for a drastic decision and a man he admitted is unable to love.
In this sense I disagree because Floyd had immediately perceived that Noelle was a very bad mother for Poppy, and he did all his best for saving Poppy from a mother without maternal sense offering to growing her up with the tranquillity, decency that a baby must have, giving her the proper education (Poppy is homeschooling a practice very appreciated by many families in UK) considering also the intelligence of the baby and her potentialities and discovering at some point a truth that would have just let him decide to send Noelle and Poppy to hell giving up with everything, but...simply he didn't and I think that the answer is not complicated. It's...Love. A story of love and dedication.
Parents sometimes are not the biological parents but people who grow up children with love. The ones do take care for them, the people able to teach them the lessons of life, educating them, loving to spend time with them and the ones who will mark their existence forever. In this sense to me Floyd is a winner. And he loves, absolutely loves Lauren.
The story with Noelle could be classified like the classic story of a man not in love for her, but searching in the while physical pleasure and company.
Sure there are extreme gestures lived by Floyd but dictated by very severe reasons and completely unwanted.
I would have seen at the end more "mercy" and understanding and a happiest end. Floyd has been another victim to my point of view of a great manipulator like Noelle is.
But, said this, these ones are just personal ideas, I can tell you that this book is a winning one.
The end is spectacular because can writes the words: "The End" at the story thanks to the direct written words of the central character of this book: Ellie and it is so touching. An extreme gesture in an extreme condition for giving back peace to her loved ones, setting everyone free and blessed with this final extreme love-letter, permitting to her family of continuing to live the existence in peace.
I surely thank NetGalley and Penguin Random House for this eBook!
Anna Maria Polidori