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The Drowning Girl - Margaret Leroy
Member Name: burtybookworm
The Drowning Girl - Margaret Leroy
Advantages: intriguing and gripping
Disadvantages: the end of the book felt a bit rushed
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.