Friday, January 14, 2022

Book Review: The Night She Disappeared

By Becky Gulc

Lisa Jewell is one of my all-time favourite authors and I’ve been enjoying her novels since her debut with Ralph’s Party in the late 1990s. I’ve enjoyed each and every novel I’ve read of Lisa’s, and she has written some of the best what could be termed traditional women’s romantic fiction in the past (Vince & Joy; 31 Dream Street) and has successfully switched genre to thrillers in more recent years. Her writing is so strong, stories so immediately immersing that it almost doesn’t matter what genre I’m reading I know I’ll love it. 

So what about the latest novel I read of Lisa’s, The Night She Disappeared, would this be one more to add to the ‘loved it’ pile? The quick answer is absolutely! Here is the synopsis:

‘'Mum, there's some people here from college, they asked me back to theirs. Just for an hour or so. Is that OK?'

Midsummer 2017: teenage mum Tallulah heads out on a date, leaving her baby son at home with her mother, Kim.

At 11 p.m. she sends her mum a text message. At 4.30 a.m. Kim awakens to discover that Tallulah has not come home.

Friends tell her that Tallulah was last seen heading to a pool party at a house in the woods nearby called Dark Place.

Tallulah never returns.

2018: walking in the woods behind the boarding school where her boyfriend has just started as a head teacher, Sophie sees a sign nailed to a fence.

A sign that says: DIG HERE . . .’ (Courtesy of Amazon UK.)

I read some great books last year and this one makes my top two. It’s a few weeks since I finished this novel, but it’s one that is definitely staying with me and I’m sure I will think back to it for a long time to come.

If the synopsis sounds good to you and intrigues you, just wait until you start reading this; there is so much more to the story. Tallulah is a young mum who wants to give her child the best start. It doesn’t make sense why she’d just vanish leaving her baby Noah or decide she’s had enough, as the police seem to believe? The story cleverly builds the backstory to the night of the disappearance utilising Sophie as a character in the present to help unpick this, and the more we learn as readers, the more I just couldn’t put the book down. I enjoyed the non-linear storytelling and personally enjoyed going back and forth meeting characters at different points in time. 

I felt for Tallulah, sensed her naivety and vulnerability, but also admired her strength and determination. The book is very atmospheric, especially the scenes in the woods at the Dark Place, it’s very oppressive in terms of relationships (what’s said, as well as what’s left unsaid) and place, at times. 

I was on the edge of my seat for the last few chapters of this novel and was pleasantly surprised with the twists and turns which I didn’t see coming. The ending really surprised me, as well.

A brilliantly crafted captivating read from Lisa. I’m already looking forward to her next novel and I’m so excited that this will be a follow-up to The Family Upstairs, another novel I loved!

More by Lisa Jewell:

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