Saturday, 17 October 2015

The Drowning Lesson by Jane Shemilt

This is the second novel from Sunday Times bestselling author Jane Shemilt following the success of her critically acclaimed debut novel Daughter. This is my first Shemilt read but I was definitely impressed and now curious for more. 

This offering tells of married doctors Emma and Adam Jordan who are at the top of their professions and are always striving to better themselves. 

When the opportunity arises, Adam jumps at the chance to take a research placement in Botswana and so the Jordans relocate with their three children to Africa. They expected the experience to be life changing but it is life altering in ways they could not possibly have envisaged. 

Emma arrives home one night to learn that their baby son has been abducted. Thousands of miles from home, the Jordan family desperately try to uncover the truth as to what has happened to their baby in the midst of the grief and turmoil of the situation. 

I’ve yet to have children, but I can guess that losing a child is probably a parent’s worst nightmare. Add to that being in a foreign country, away from friends and familiarity and a different legal system, and it makes the whole scenario much more terrifying and stressful. 

Emma and Adam have an interesting relationship to start with; both intelligent and at the top of their fields and yet they are always in some unspoken competition to outdo each other. They certainly have their differences, and following the abduction their marriage is pushed to breaking point. 

Emma’s character has many issues of her own, sometimes explored through flashbacks to her childhood which added more depth to the story. Issues aside, the Jordans are a fairly ordinary family, and so being thrown into such a terrible situation, it makes for gripping reading to uncover the mystery alongside them. 

There are two main settings which really ground the two halves of the story. There is the family’s home in England where you learn about the characters and their day to day lives which is quite ordinary and safe. Then with the move to Africa, you can almost feel the unforgiving heat of the place as the Jordan’s start their new life there which swiftly takes a turn for the worst. 

The prose gets quite dark at times and there is plenty of tension as you move towards the ending. A compelling read about secrets, marriage, family and motherhood, The Drowning Lesson will keep you guessing until the very last page. 

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