Then She Was Gone- Lisa Jewell

I hadn’t heard much about Then She Was Gone before I started reading but, in desperate need of a new book to read, I scoured my sister’s bookshelf. I hadn’t read the blurb, but from the tagline ‘A missing girl; a buried secret’, it sounded like the type of book I would usually enjoy.

The prologue, as is its purpose, did a fantastic job at setting up the story and hooked my interest straight away. It was clear that whatever had happened to Ellie was going to shape the entire narrative, but I was completely clueless as to what had happened exactly.

Laurel is an incredibly likeable character and I’d say it’s this that gives the narrative its momentum. Whilst Ellie’s disappearance is, of course, the main event, it doesn’t overtake the plot which enhances its reality- families with missing children must continue.  The narrative swings between past and present in the perfect balance. In fact, the past is so subtle that it would be easy to miss it- I suppose this reflects how easy it is to miss the signs of something peculiar happening, until it’s too late.

It’s apparent that we’re supposed to be suspicious of Floyd from the beginning, but it’s not entirely clear why. There are red flags the entire way through, but they definitely didn’t lead to the resolution I had imagined- no matter how much I tried to anticipate how the narrative would conclude, I was proven wrong again and again. But the tension doesn’t stop after we learn how and why Ellie disappeared, and it’s this being kept on my toes until the very end that I loved so much.

Jewell’s characterisation was interesting in that I couldn’t quite put my finger on her techniques. I had such a vivid image in my head, but I don’t remember even being given a full description of each- obviously having learnt from the way other characters described them and their reactions and interactions. We’re never told that a character is inherently good or bad, but this is made clear through through subtle actions that may not seem important on their own, but add up to create the perfect character.

What I must admit is that, whilst I have praised the reality of Then She Was Gone and its mystery, I must question how feasible the ‘reality’ within the narrative is. Of course, the beauty of fiction is that it can dabble in the absurd and impossible, but I can’t help wonder if it could have felt even more real.

Without a doubt, my favourite part was the very last page of this book. I think that it ties up the narrative so perfectly, and in a way that I had never anticipated. It’s not a cliffhanger as such, and it certainly isn’t a happy ending, but it left my heart feeling ever so slightly warmer.

I would wholeheartedly recommend Then She Was Gone to anyone that enjoys a mystery- especially if you want an ending that’s practically impossible to foresee!