I picked this novel up a few weeks ago from our local swop shop, initially drawn by the lovely photograph of the sad, beautiful little girl on the front and then by the tag line"What if therewas something deeplywrong with your child - and nobody belived you?' I thought at first it might have been about a battle against a disease or accident but was immediately drawn into a thriller and, a crime investigation.
The novel starts with a brief 1 page long vivid description of imagining how someone feels whilst drowning then it plunges into the lives of young single mum Grace and her troubled 3 year old daughter Sylvie. Rejected by her married lover Grace is struggling to bring up her young daughter who insists to her distress on calling her Grace and who becomes hysterical whenever she comes accidentally in contact with water. Grace is devastated when she has to give up her job in a florists shop which is her lifeline in the world when the nursery which Sylvie attends will lno longer put up with her tantrums and difficult behaviour. Sylvie repeatedly raws a small white house which she insists is her home and the mystery deepens when Grace accidentally comes across a picture in a magazine of "Coldharbour" in Ireland and Sylvie insists that it is her village. Desperate to bring some kind of peace to herself and her daughter she makes contact with Adam Winters, a Psychologist who specialises in investigating reincarnation and together the three of them fly to Ireland.
This novel had me intrigued from the start and often had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up as it moves between a crime investigation and a ghost story. You feel so much for the confused and desperate Grace wanting a normal peaceful life for her daughter and her frustration at trying to get information from a three year old is convincingly well written. The plot draws you along almost against your wishes trying to save the little girl from any further harm and had me reading late into the night, particularly the last chapters. It is a mix of crime ,thriller and a little romance thrown in as wellI found the characters convincing and well written, particularly little Sylvie who you just wanted to reach into the book snatch out of harms way!
This is the first novel that I have read by Margaret Leroy who studied music at Oxford. She has written four other novels one of which has been televised by Granada and also numerous short stories I will be looking out for more of her novels in the future.
4 stars from me, engrossing but not great.
395 pages long and published by Mira, the price on the back of my copy is 6.99pounds.
Thank you for reading my review which may also be posted on ciao under splishsplash
I was browsing the bookshelfs, looking for something a bit different to the usual boy meets girl romance saga and came across The Drowning Girl by Margaret Leroy. I read the blurb on the back, which drew me in, enough to read the first paragraph of the book - which is what I always do before I buy a book. I was hooked almost immediately and bought the book there and then.
The basic story is about a little girl who remembers a past life. Single mum Grace is doing her best to bring up Sophie, her four-year old troubled little girl. Grace works as a florist whilst Sophie is at nursery, and despite still having feelings for the father of her child (who is married with children) he is not a part of their lives. This is a supernatural story within everyday settings. Grace and Sophie are very ordinary people, living ordinary lives but when Sophie's problems become too difficult for Grace to handle she seeks the help of friends and experts, none of which seem able to resolve her child's difficulties. As the story unforlds we see that Sophie does in fact remember a past life and moreover yearns for her past family and living conditions.
The novel is very well written and I can see that the author has done a lot of research on the subject. But it isn't just about the supernatural, Margaret Leroy also captures single-parenthood and a bit of romance too.
I won't tell you any more because I don't want to spoil the story for you but I can say that it's a great read if you are looking for something a bit different to your everyday romance. The scenes are set in London and Ireland.
Single mum Grace feels like she is drowning. Her 4 year old girl, Sylvie is a troubled child; prone to angry tantrums, unable to interact properly with children and seems utterly petrified of water. Grace's life is falling apart, psychiatrists blame Grace for not creating strong boundaries, she has no family to help her out and her only friend is distancing herself from Grace because Sylvie is upsetting her daughter. Grace is at her wits end and obviously desperate to cure her little girl of whatever it is that is wrong with her.
Grace is sure that Sylvie's problems go deeper; is sure that there is seriously something wrong with her child so she takes drastic action which will change their lives forever.
Unless you have read a review about this book, then it would be unclear what exactly the story is about. This definitely piqued my curiosity; I read a brilliant review on here and then subsequently swapped a book for this with the reviewer in question! (thanks Rhiana!) and luckily the book lived up to my expectations.
I felt drawn in to Grace's plight from the word go. We are introduced to Grace and Sylvie when they attend a children's birthday party and straight away, their strange relationship has an immediate impact:
"I can hear my feet Grace. I can hear them".
Immediately, I am confused as to why the little girl is calling her mother by her first name. Soon after it is revealed that Sylvie, of her own accord, has decided that she will call her mother Grace and it is a decision that Grace seems unable to change. Along with this, Grace, although clearly unhappy, seems to have almost given up in helping her change her behaviour. I must admit at first I found the characters hard to relate to and therefore I felt convinced I wasn't going to see this through to its conclusion; It took me a while not to feel frustrated with Grace, I felt her character was weak and I couldn't help thinking I half agreed with the professionals, that Grace didn't help herself and wasn't firm enough with Sylvie to make sure that the way in which she behaved was just not acceptable. Similarly, I felt it hard to have any empathy with Sylvie, as at first I pictured her in the same vein as Kevin in "We Need to Talk about Kevin"; she almost seemed inherently evil or wrong.
Thankfully (and before I get told off for not being sympathetic to children with problems or mothers coping with such children!) their characters developed and gradually my opinions changed. The book is almost split in to two sections and this first section is where the main character growth appears. The first section of the book merely sets the scene and describes various issues that Grace and Sylvie have in their everyday lives. Not a lot happens in this section, and perhaps this is where my frustration with the characters stem from; all their situations, once you come to understand almost how Sylvie ticks, become predictable and again, Grace's lack of action is extremely frustrating. This first section, although lacking in real action, really set the scene for the second half of the book which contained plenty! The second section of the book really picked up pace for me and it went from a fairly interesting book about a girl with some kind of behavioural problem, to a fascinating book that delves into past lives as well as getting to the root of Sylvie's issues. Also by the second half, I understood both Sylvie's issues and Grace's insecurities much better. I felt so much empathy for Grace's situation and wanted her to find a solution, whereas I ached for poor Sylvie and desperately wanted her to become a normal little girl. It became impossible to remain hard-hearted to little Sylvie when it is increasingly apparent she has severe psychological problems. With that in mind, I became found myself immediately sympathetic to their terrible situation and therefore it helped me to get "involved" with the book more.
Although it was necessary to the plot, I found that one section in the Ireland story wasn't particularly interesting and almost detracted from the main story of Sylvie's issues. I won't spoil anything by saying what exactly it is but it will become apparent that Sylvie's strange ways have some kind of connection to other events in Coldharbour where they visit. I felt that this section of the book was not written as well as the rest. This section was important to the story, and I felt that with a little bit more development, it could have been just as interesting as Sylvie's story, instead it became an unimportant sub plot which was a shame as it had bearing on Sylvie's situation. Instead of taking the time to make the reader really intrigued in this story as well as creating some kind of suspense before the truth is revealed, it was introduced and was over before I'd had a chance to digest it. Almost blink and you will miss it! It is a shame, as added to Sylvie's strange behaviour, this story could have given the book that extra wow factor. Instead, this part felt rushed.
Added to this, I found myself thinking that the whole ending could have had a bit more thought to it. I desperately wanted to know what happened after Ireland, and this coupled with the fact that I felt the end of the Ireland section was rushed anyway made me think the author had spent far too much time setting up and building the characters at the beginning, but got bored with the whole story towards the end where it really mattered.
However, this didn't spoil the overall enjoyment for me and I liked the spiritual side that this book opened up to me. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from this book, but it's content surprised me as It's not something I have read about before. It is certainly a one off, another book like this wouldn't hold my interest, but overall I found the subject matter extremely intriguing and it was tackled well as well as being generally very well written, it captured my imagination as well as my attention. I would recommend.
Last week during school half term, My daughter and I where stuck in the house as it poured with rain, driving each other crazy. I had the bright idea of taking her to a soft play centre we know, where she can go off and burn some energy for an hour or so, while I relax with a cuppa and a book. So we got ready and set off, only for me to realise whilst half way there I'd forgot my book. Arrrghh!
The nearest shop was Morrisons, and I nipped in with the intention of just picking up a couple of magazines. I couldn't resist the book section though, and with the currant best sellers only £4.99, or 2 for £8 I decided it was better to just buy a couple of books.
However my daughter was excited and impatient to get to the soft play and I had to chose quick. And that's how I came across this book, one which I would never probably have chosen had I time to do more than grab 2 after a brief scan of the back.
The Drowning Girl by Margaret Leroy asks on the front cover " What if there was something deeply wrong with your child and nobody believed you?"
The synopsis on the back tells us very little other than the the book is about Grace, A young single mum who is deeply concerned about her 4 year old daughter, Sylvie, Distant, troubled and prone to violant trantrums, the experts blame Grace. But she is sure there's more to what's happening to her child. It's Grace who is the drowning girl of the title, as her loneliness, financial situation and lack of support overwhelm her.
From the cover I presumed this was a book about a mother fighting for the correct treatment for her child, and supposed that from the synopsis Sylvie was a child with learning disabilities, perhaps autism. This is far from my usual kind of book, I'm not a fan of the 'true modern story' genre to be honest. However I was intrigued by Grace being a young single mum, fighting to have her concerns heard, and not being believed. I myself have experienced a similar reaction to concerns raised with professionals, although wasn't regarding my children's health or development. This is why in haste I grabbed the book, hoping for something readable and interesting, but not completely hopeful.
However, settling down in the soft play, I realised this book was far from what I actually expected, and I was entranced from the very first page. The Drowning Girl turned out to be a fantastic ghost story, touching on the super natural and reincarnation, full of suspense and with a murder mystery thrown in for good measure.
The book is told in the first person from Grace. I identified and related to her from the very first page. The book begins at another child's birthday party. grace is the only single mother there, she feels intimidated and jealous of the more prosperous parents, and her daughter, Sylvie chooses this moment to have a huge tantrum/panic attack when some water splashes her face. Every feeling the author gives Grace is one I have had myself. She describes the people and events so perfectly you can place yourself right there. I was hooked straight away.
Grace is desperate to be close to her daughter Sylvie, and is constantly pushed away and hurt by her 4 year olds bizarre aloofness. It was easy to feel Graces pain at her daughters rejection, and understand her becoming angry. While I empathised completely with Grace, it was still impossible to dislike Sylvie, an enigma from the start, yet immediately gains sympathy from the reader. She is vulnerable, other worldly, beautiful and clearly very frightened. I loved this little girl right away, and wanted to just give her a hug myself. She is fascinating, and her relationship with her mother heart breaking.
Graces frustration with the professionals and friends around her is contagious. The author has a fantastic skill of depicting every character, no matter who small, with absolute realism. Alongside the brilliance with wich she gives Graces voice, it's very easy to become part of the story and has you reeling at the unjustness of people dismissing and pre judging Grace because of her age, marital status and class and something I can completely relate to.
As Grace looks for alternative answers, after being shunned by psychiatrists and having Sylvie expelled from nursery, she meets Adam, a psychologist with interest in the paranormal. Taking Sylvie to Ireland, things become more sinister than they imagined. I loved this part of the book the most. In Ireland the suspense is magnified. It's not an in your face and violent suspense, more a gentle spookiness which has you forgetting to breathe. The story unravels slowly and deliciously. Again the authors descriptive skill for both places and people reads beautifully.
There are some parts of the book which are a tad predictable. Grace and Adams relationship, for example, starts off with Adam clearly only interested in Sylvie and his research and him pressurising Sylvie horrifically and desperately. In Ireland things mellow, however, and romance is ever so slightly in the air. While I'm not sure if romance would be my top priority in Grace's position, it's easy to see how it happens here and it's written to be subtle and inoffensive, so doesn't become unrealistic or sexy, which would have cheapened and spoilt the book entirely for me.
I also correctly predicted a big 'twist' too. Not actually while reading the book, but after putting the book down to do some housework. An hour later, while hoovering the stairs, so haunted by this story and still thinking about it, it came to me. It wasn't predictable enough to ruin the rest of the book, there are other twists and turns I didn't predict and spent most of the book sitting upright in suspense, devouring each word and desperate to know what was going on. However I do feel a bit more work could have gone into this event/character to make it less predictable and more thrilling.
I finished this book in less than 24 hours. Indeed at the soft play I managed 100 pages before even looking up, a great achievement giving the noise of over 50 kids! I found it to be one of those books which completely surprise you, engrossing you from the first page.
I'm not sure which genre to place this book. It's not a crime thriller, yet it has a murder mystery. It's not horror, but it's ghostly and other worldly. It's not real life, yet it feels as if it could be, at no time did any of the story feel contrived or fantasy and it left a lot of 'what Ifs?' in my head. If I had to liken this book to another author I have read, then I would say Jodi Piccoult, in the way she examines human relationships in extreme traumatic circumstances, but without the heavy factual language I find her books get bogged down with. I loved my sisters keeper, by Piccoult , for example, yet found the text book style medical and legal jargon a struggle. I found this book to be far easier to read than Piccoult, with more focus on the character, rather than the situation, and much more enjoyable. Leroy manages to make the idea of reincarnation seem a real possibility, no matter what your thoughts or beliefs are in this area.
In conclusion, I was over joyed with this book. I was given the treat of an unexpected pleasure, which is always fantastic to find in the book. I wondered how 'vague' to be in my review, being as I knew so little about the book. However a quick search on the internet tells more than I have, and hopefully expanding on the synopsis will tempt those who may have missed this gem of a story.
I loved the lead character Grace, and her daughter Sylvie, and despite the slightly predictable parts I thoroughly enjoyed this book and couldn't put it down. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes a slightly gothic suspense, with a very original story. Ideal holiday reading. 5 stars from me.
The Drowning Girl By Margaret Leroy