On 31st December 1999 Beth Archer’s daughter, Amy, disappeared without a trace. Ten years later Beth is still bound by her grief, separated from her husband Brian, and still trying to come to terms with her daughter’s body never being found.
On the tenth anniversary of Amy’s disappearance, a woman called Libby comes to Beth and introduces her daughter Esme, to her. An uncanny double of Amy that knows details that only Beth and Amy would know, Libby insists that Amy has been reborn in Esme.
The tension and inner turmoil of the main character, Beth, is palpable on every page. Pateman maintains the momentum right though the books journey, Beth’s frenetic swings of belief or disbelief in re-incarnation; combined with the slow unravelling of the events of her daughter’s disappearance is tantalising, we get glimpses of the past cleverly mixed with the present day. I read this book in a day, because I could not put it down.
I have an open mind about re-incarnation, cleverly Pateman’s Beth is not a believer – she so desperately wants to hold her daughter again, it is almost too much to bear that she cannot bring herself to believe. The innocent Esme pulls at the heartstrings, her knowledge of the past is convincing, she is unaware of the pain she causes in her throw away remarks, revealing dark secrets that even Beth has repressed.
Beth’s emotional swings and unravelling, the way women and mothers are judged in society, maternal guilt and deep harrowing grief are so well written that it amazed me to discover that Pateman was a man!
The only niggle is the connection of Esme and Amy’s past, it seemed a bit tenuous, but that aside, it is a very good tale, one that will have you reading deep into the night.
Well done Mr Pateman, this is an outstanding debut novel, can’t wait to read the next one!