Perfect Daughter – Amanda Prowse

This was our book group book for May. Telling the story of Jacks a middle-aged mum who feels stuck in her life looking after her children and her mum who has Alzheimers, she dreams of a better life for her bright daughter. It’s a fairly predictable read. Jacks life has never measured up to the expectations she had as teenager, she still spends a lot of time wondering what might have been if she had sailed into the sunset with her first love instead of being left at home with a baby to bring up. She is dissatisfied and wants more for her own daughter and is alarmed as history appears to be repeating itself. It’s all quite contrived with pretty two dimensional characters. We never really get to know anyone particularly well except Jacks who comes across as quite whiny and self obsessed! I found it boring with a very contrived predictable ending. It was a really easy read although I did get annoyed at how much repitition there was in it so I wouldn’t recommend it even for passing the time on holiday!

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Imagine Me Gone – Adam Haslett

I bought this in a bookshop with a birthday book token on the strength of a review written by a staff member, I would probably have walked past it without that review and as I really enjoyed it I’m very glad the staff take the time to write and display their reviews pointing readers in new and different directions.

This is a story of two parts. It focuses on one family, parents John and Margaret and their children Michael, Alec and Celia. The first part tells of their lives while the children are young and ends with the death of the father John. The second part picks them up again years later when the children have grown up and are leading their own lives. It’s very much the story of their family, the relationships, the events and experiences that make them who they are. Each chapter is narrated by a different member of the family so we hear the different voices and are able to piece together a real sense of their family dynamic. Although at times it seems very much like the story of a normal family it gradually becomes clear that John struggles with depression so this underlies much of the first part of the book. In the second part mental illness becomes much more of a present theme through the character of Michael and the way his family try to support him yet also retaining their own individual voices and stories. I really enjoyed this book, it pulls you into the family and their lives and the way it allows you to see all the perspectives is really interesting. The writing is excellent, particularly the character of Michael, it really feels like an insight into depression but without being overtly so. It’s a sad haunting read yet with moments that are funny and tender. A real exploration of the complexity of both mental illness and family life. A great read.