Monday, 12 June 2017
#TheMarshKingsDaughter #KarenDionne #Review
When notorious child abductor - known as the Marsh King - escapes from a maximum security prison, Helena immediately suspects that she and her two young daughters are in danger.
No one, not even her husband, knows the truth about Helena's past: they don't know that she was born into captivity, that she had no contact with the outside world before the age of twelve - or that her father raised her to be a killer.
And they don't know that the Marsh King can survive and hunt in the wilderness better than anyone... except, perhaps his own daughter.
Yes this book is as compelling, chilling and brutal as it sounds!
I was immediately hooked by the voice of the protagonist Helena, born two years into her mother's captivity when her mother was only 17. Now, after having built a new, anonymous life for herself, now a mother herself, she watches the news that her father has escaped. With an eerie calmness and rationality, she prepares herself to track him down and confront him.
I was immediately hooked by Helena's voice because it was candid, honest, caustic at times, and never sensationalised or gratuitous. I love books that have intriguing and original voices that fascinate me, engage me, sometime horrify me and surprise me. Helena did this. She spoke so directly that it was impossible to turn away from her story.
"I could tell you that I was twelve and my mother twenty eight when we were recovered fro her captor, that I spent those years living in what the papers describe as a run down farmhouse surrounded by swamp in the middle of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.....I can tell you what the papers did not: she never got over the years of captivity; she wasn't a pretty, articulate, outspoken champion of the cause; there were no book deals for my timid, self-effacing wreck of a mother."
The beginning of the novel focuses on Helena's present day situation. The author's imagining of how an adult that spent such formative years in captivity, isolated, living in the wild, by their own rules and only using what the land provided, is impressive and convincing. Helena's observations about society and the "rules" and behaviours we follow are forthright and upfront but not far fetched and not cliched. Dionne has clearly considered the role of her characters in colossal detail. Helena's behaviour and comments are thought provoking and raise lots of questions about what she has been through and how the experience has affected her.
".....the most amazing discovery I made after my mother and I were recovered is electricity...."
I think what was truly captivating and fascinating about this novel was Helena's relationship with her father - her captor. I thought it was a really bold, exciting and curious approach to take. It sets the book apart in a way as it challenges the reader's relationship with Helena, her father and her mother. It reveals a lot about Helena as a mother and wife, and prepares us - or terrifies us - about what she might do in the novel as events unfold and she starts to track down her father.
"....everyone expected me to hate my father for what he did to my mother, and I did, I do. But I also feel sorry for him. ......He was mentally ill, supremely flawed.....he couldn't have resisted taking my mother if he'd wanted to...."
"I loved my father. The Jacob Holbrook I knew was smart, funny, patient and kind. He took care of me, fed and clothed me, taught me everything I needed to know not only to survive in the marsh, but to thrive."
We have to remember Helena grew up in captivity so her entire world was limited to the one her father showed her. Her mother is obviously - and understandably -broken by her experience and I think this is a clever and gripping angle to take. The dynamics between the trio are very interesting and also Helena is now an adult who knows the truth and, further highlighted by now needing to protect her own children, she has hindsight and a broader context in which to reflect on what her father did and what she went through. For me, this was compelling.
"[I was] devastated when life in the marsh was over."
The stakes are raised by the fact that not even Helena's husband knows about her past. Which means he doesn't know about his daughter's grandfather and the DNA they have inside them. Helena's sarcasm and wry words help capture the magnitude of this in a way that is very in keeping with understated and almost factual nature of Helena's recount. And she doesn't want our sympathy, or pity, or to be patronised.
"Bad things happen. Planes crash, trains derail, people die in floods and earthquakes and tornadoes. Snowmobiles get lost. Dogs get shot. And young girls get kidnapped."
Helena is a one off. You can not fail to want to hear about her past, about her present and where her journey to find her father will take her physically, emotionally and metaphorically. This is a character who will stay with me. For a long time.
Great idea, great writing, great character and great story. Recommend!
The Marsh King's Daughter is published on 13th June by Sphere.
For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or via my website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk