Sunday 28 June 2015

Reviewed: Perfect Daughter by Amanda Prowse.

Perfect Daughter will be published by Head of Zeus on July 2, 2015.

Thanks to Eve at Midas PR for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Perfect Daughter is the latest offering by Amanda Prowse and it’s another beautiful, moving novel – not that I expected any less. Amanda really throws her heart and soul into her writing and it shows. Once I had a chance to pick this book up, I just couldn’t tear myself away. Jacks Morgan lives in Weston-super-Mare with her chaotic family – husband Pete, children Martha and Jonty and her mother, Ida. The daily mundanities of life are not exactly what she anticipated when she was younger and she can’t help but look back on all her dreams and wonder what if… how life would be if things had worked out differently. Perfect Daughter is a wonderfully-told story about the opportunities life brings, the dreams and the choices, the mistakes and the regrets and most importantly, discovering what really matters in life.

Jacks is probably one of my favourite protagonists ever. She is what I would call a sandwich mother in that not only is she mum to her two children Martha and Jonty, she’s also carer to her own mum who has Alzheimer’s. She makes mistakes, she’s very aware of this, but who doesn’t? There’s just a lovely strength to her character and she is always battling away, putting everyone else first and running from one place to another trying to get everyone through the day okay. As her husband Pete is out working a lot of the time, everything lays at Jacks’ feet and I had so much respect for her character and how she kept on going. She’s exhausted with life and I wasn’t surprised. It was quite moving when she admitted to her best friend Gina (who by the way was an absolute hoot and a real breath of fresh air to this story) that she hadn’t really had a day – or even a few good hours – to herself in about six years.

Throughout this book, we are taken back in time to when Jacks was a teenager and with this we can see how different her life is to what she had planned and even though most people don’t live the life they necessarily expected, I kind of felt like Jacks didn’t even have time to sit back and think about what could have been. Sure, she daydreamed about being her younger self and her ambitions and boyfriend of the past but she couldn’t lose that guilt for even thinking back to a time when she didn’t have children and she didn’t have her caring husband Pete. Jacks instead chooses to focus on her clever daughter Martha, who has all the ability and intelligence to achieve what Jacks didn’t and to have a successful career, travel the world and not get held back by the never-changing Weston-super-Mare. One aspect to this book I really enjoyed was how when the story transported us back to the past, the similarities between all three generations of women – Jacks, her mum Ida and her daughter Martha – were highlighted and it made me smile how a lot of the advice Jacks gave to Martha was the advice she ignored from her own mother when she was of a similar age. Jacks wanted nothing more than the best future for her daughter but I couldn’t help but feel she needed to let her live her own life.

I loved how realistically written each member of the Morgan family was because they really were just your average family – of course they each had their dreams and aspirations, and their own problems, but they were the typical family going about day to day life and trying not to let life and its issues bring them down. Some of my favourite moments in this book were the normal kind of family situations such as the school run because the conversations and the bickering were so recognisable. This book felt so honest and down-to-earth because Amanda didn’t choose to involve any perfect characters – instead there are people and situations we can identify with and relate to. Funniest moment of this book, for me, goes to Jonty who was a little gem of a character and I will mention the words period pain and leave it at that…

Each family relationship was special to read in its own right. The bond between Jacks and Martha, as I’ve mentioned, really fascinated me and I loved how the format of the novel allows us to explore how Martha approaches life in a way so recognisable to her mum. The relationship between Jacks and Ida was often very difficult and I found it a little bit sad how they never really had a great bond – some of the things Ida said to Jacks when she was a child were quite cutting and I wanted to understand why she said those things. But with this I found myself admiring Jacks even more because she still answered her mum’s every ring of the bell and was committed to caring for her when there were nurses more than happy to take over. I also loved learning about Jacks relationship with her husband Pete because really it seemed so unexpected that they would be together. I have to admit, I really liked Pete and found him to be quite a loveable character with his jokes and that hapless grin. He wasn’t really the person I expected him to be but I liked that about him.

I think I could gush about Perfect Daughter all day long as it really was a book with such a stunning core to it, such wonderful characters and a very addictive story. At times this book was tender, at others just very funny and entertaining but it was always beautiful and always a joy to read – one for everyone to add to their reading lists.

A funny yet emotional novel about a sandwich mother whose dreams of the past keep trying to find a way through.

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