The latest review in The Library is a guest post by Steph, who you can usually find blogging about food and drink over on her blog, Hungry Harriet. She’s a self-confessed Lisa Jewell super fan and wanted to share her thoughts on her latest fictional masterpiece, Then She Was Gone.
Then She Was Gone book review
She was fifteen, her mother’s golden girl.
She had her whole life ahead of her.
And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.
Ten years on, Laurel has never given up hope of finding Ellie. And then she meets a charming and charismatic stranger who sweeps her off her feet.
But what really takes her breath away is when she meets his nine year old daughter.
Because his daughter is the image of Ellie.
Now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back.
What really happened to Ellie? Who still has secrets to hide?
Then She Was Gone is relayed to us in non-chronological order, presenting us with the problem at the very beginning and filling in the pieces of the jigsaw from then on. The puzzle is pieced together from various character perspectives to form one coherent solution to our initial induced befuddlement. We are led to a kind of happily ever after (sort of) but in true Lisa Jewell style, we’re always left with a sense of ambiguous darkness to mull over.
The book begins in the past with Ellie, who we later find out went missing after heading out to the library one afternoon whilst studying for her GCSEs. Vanished into the ether with no apparent explanation for the family who end up disintegrating in the wake of her mysterious disappearance. Ten years on, the police come up with a chink of hope for the family after discovering a bag, some belongings and human remains buried in a field.
The discovery provides the launchpad from which we then find out more about Ellie’s last moments before her disappearance, the consequences the incident has had on Ellie’s newly separated parents, Laurel and Paul and their two other children, Hannah and Jake. The narrative is catalysed when Laurel meets new love interest, Floyd in a seemingly serendipitous case of events and subsequently becomes closer to his daughter, Poppy who looks uncannily like Ellie. Floyd and Poppy provide the missing link between past and present and answer some pressing questions about Ellie’s childhood math’s tutor, Noelle.
As the kettle boiled early one Saturday morning when it was finally time to break the spine on a brand new hardback, I turned the front cover and perused the reviews on the sleeve while I waited for the click. Now if I remember correctly, it was The Daily Express who described how they simply “inhaled” Then She Was Gone and I thought to myself, yep – that is the perfect verb to describe my reading of any Lisa Jewell novel. Past and present.
I say this because I’m a bit of a self-confessed Lisa Jewell superfan and you can guarantee I’ll have devoured a new release within a maximum of 72 hours following it’s launch date. This time was 12 hours. Twelve hours, two sittings and countless cups of milky tea to carry me through what transpired to be yet another intricate and truly gripping narrative from the acclaimed authoress.
Then She Was Gone was true to tradition. Lisa Jewell most definitely has a signature writing style that is comforting, familiar and unnervingly sinister in equal parts. I always say that I’d love to see how she constructs her plots as they’re always a complicated web of then and now, coincidental relationships and a crescendo revelation that you can’t believe you didn’t see coming. I have to admit, I did rumble this one a bit earlier than usual but I navigated my way through the maze of interlinking stories with an insatiable curiosity nonetheless.
Now it’s all over, I have some unanswered questions myself. I miss Laurel. I want to know how her and Poppy are getting on. Was Floyd’s secret at the end of the garden ever uncovered? Whatever happened to Hannah and Theo? I’m even envious of anybody who hasn’t read it because I’d love to do it all over again.
Closing the back page on Then She Was Gone filled me with the same disappointment and frustration that every Lisa Jewell novel does – in the best possible way. It’s a disappointment that you can never go for coffee with any of the characters you’ve come to know so well, and a frustration that the plot can’t just keep unravelling like a ball of entangled thread into infinity and beyond.
As the cool kids would say: 10/10, would totally recommend.