TITLE: Then She Was Gone
AUTHOUR: Lisa Jewell
Ellie Mack was fifteen, a golden girl in her family’s eyes, when she disappeared in the blink of an eye. The novel begins ten years later after she goes missing and sees her mother, Laurel Mack, as a divorced empty-nester who is struggling to pick up the pieces of her life. This psychological thriller is Lisa Jewell’s fifteenth novel and seemingly the darkest. It takes the reader on a suspenseful journey in finding out what really happened to Ellie all those years ago and follows broken family and friends, some of whom have secrets to hide.
“The reader is constantly kept on edge and encouraged to make their own assumptions”
The novel begins in the present tense but flicks between this and the past as the narrative continues. Told from the perspective of four different characters, the reader is constantly kept on edge and encouraged to make their own assumptions about the details of the incident. Mainly told from the point of view of Laurel and Ellie, it is not difficult to keep on track as it gently weaves through the two voices, creating a rollercoaster of a read that heightens the surprising twists and family drama.
Readers will see Ellie visiting her local library in North London and later disappearing without a trace. At times it is heart-breaking to see the devastating effect on the family as their marriage ended in divorce whilst Laurel is too shattered to parent her other children, Hanna and Jake, who become quite distant in their early adult life. There is an eerie and touching sense that the warmth and happiness of their daily lives vanished with Ellie.
With little evidence or potential leads regarding Ellie’s disappearance in the past decade, authorities believe that Laurel’s daughter was a runaway tired of school and family. This does not sit well with Laurel who is adamant that Ellie would never had ran away yet she knows that it is time to move on once some of Ellie’s remains are found. She meets the charismatic Floyd Dunn who sweeps her off her feet, embarking upon a new relationship. The novel until this moment is quite a slow start yet it is when she meets his young daughter Poppy that the plot takes a gripping turn. The likeness of Poppy and her own dead daughter is uncanny, keeping the reader hooked until the very last page.
“The direction of the plot was however, somewhat predictable”
I finished this book in two days as I could not put it down. When looking at characters, both good and bad, you will find yourself attached to them in a way that only Jewell’s mystery novels can achieve. The author has developed a thrilling plot that was page turning, disturbing and enthralling for majority of the read. The direction of the plot was however, somewhat predictable two thirds of the way through the novel. The reader is partially able to foresee the turn of events although I would not say that this impacts the enjoyment of the book drastically.
Some questions are answered too early in the novel, but this is not necessarily a negative point. In fact, it makes it more exciting as you want to see whether your theories are right. It is strikingly scary to think that the events of what happens to Ellie and the family turmoil that follows it not far from reality, making each page more addictive.
“The plot is reliant on coincidences which occasionally feels slightly far-fetched”
Embarking on her own investigation, the mother Laurel unearths haunting truths. After you get past the slow start I challenge readers to put this irresistible book down until you reach the final heart-breaking and touching pages. The plot is reliant on coincidences which occasionally feels slightly far-fetched. Nonetheless, the fluidity of the prose and the way that Jewell articulates the main characters compensate for this. One way that the author excels is through characterisation that highlights the shady secrets, lies and pasts. The events before and after Ellie vanishing are bothersome, resulting in you desiring to get to the bottom of these secrets.
Packing a great emotional punch, I recommend this number one bestseller to anyone remotely interested in the thriller/mystery genre. Regardless of the predictability this is a well-written mystery that is exciting which an ending that sure to leave you feeling moved.
Image courtesy of Shanai Momi