Monday, 21 December 2015

The Drowning Lesson by Jane Shemilt

Jane Shemilt takes every woman’s nightmare – the theft of a baby – as the turning point in her beguilingly named novel, The Drowning Lesson. Emma Jordan is an awkward heroine. A fearlessly talented doctor and obstetrician, her early life experiences have taught her to be the best she can be, often at the expense of her emotional needs.

The mother of two young daughters, Emma is reluctant to take a year off work when her husband is offered a sabbatical in Botswana, helping with AIDs research. When she falls unexpectedly pregnant she eventually agrees. This backstory is woven in with the chilling events that start the story, when Emma returns home from work at a clinic to discover her baby boy has been abducted. The police are slow to come up with any leads, but Emma’s desperate need to find her son means she throws doubt and suspicion in every direction.

This is a gripping story with a surprising ending, and while I didn’t at first like the main character, she is given depth and allowed to develop into one I could understand. She goes from being a cold fish to a woman driven by desperation. Her frantic energy drives the plot and her relationships with others, particularly her brittle daughter, Alice, and her beleaguered husband, threatening her marriage.

Shemilt is a fine writer, her prose spare and telling, with a talent for plotting so that for me the chapters just flew by. The Drowning Lesson is well worth a look, but I warn you, once you pick it up you might find hard to tear yourself away from it.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: The Drowning Lesson

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