Pub Date: 2020
Length: 369 pages
Kindle Edition: £0.99/Paperback Edition: £8.99
Motherdarling was a monster. Jack, her son, walked out the day he turned eighteen. He’s not been back. Now Motherdarling’s dead. Anne has to find the missing Will or Jack inherits half of the Estate. But when Anne starts to search, she finds a secret that endangers all her hopes.
Motherdarling is a slow burn. This isn’t a negative. I enjoy these kinds of narratives, as they allow one to become slowly absorbed into the author’s world. It is akin to settling into a hot bath, except in this story, someone has lit a fire under the tub, and one hardly notices as the water begins to heat up and boil!
There are a couple of grammatical errors which can be forgiven, such as missing quotation marks, and using first then third person in a single sentence – when Anne is speaking in one chapter, she says, “I look down at her hands” and “At last I shake the water from her hands”. This might be a very subtle way of mentioning her hands remind her of her mother’s, but I don’t believe so.
The story takes place over a week, beginning with the funeral of the titular Motherdarling. Each chapter is written from the point of view of the family members, Anne, Jack, Peter and Chris. Beginning with Anne, we discover a somewhat sad, and dowdy, middle-aged woman who is both grieving, and relieved at the loss of her mother. She is aghast to discover that her brother, Jack, who has been out of the country for 30 years, has turned up and fears he is after part of the potential inheritance.
Then the family is informed that there is no Will. They must find it. And so, the hunt begins. And as they search, they uncover more than they bargained for. The reader accompanies each of the players on this journey, and as we are party to their inner thoughts, we begin to learn more about their motives, their appetites, their desires. The author writes deftly, unfolding the character’s responses to the situation as it twists one way then the other. It sounds such a cliché, but like an onion, it has layers. And as these layers are drawn back, each reveals the flaws in their makeup, the same way all humans veer on our moral track depending on circumstance.
Appleby has written a family drama wrapped around a mystery. And though the pace is similar throughout, we do get a feel for each individual character via a varied style of writing – Chris, for example, Anne’s teenage son, thinks in a staccato way, his thoughts are sometimes scattered, he bounces from one topic to the next when not directly speaking to someone. Whereas his father, Peter, has longer, drawn-out sentences that reflect his slower thinking pattern.
Motherdarling is engrossing. It is horribly fascinating. Like watching (another cliché, I’m afraid) a car crash in slow motion. The question of nature versus nurture is at the core of the story, as well as what is family? There are two, apparent, side stories relating to Peter and Chris, that eventually find their place in the whole. I had wondered about them and the relevance, but the author does a beautiful job of weaving the threads together into a wonderful if disturbing tapestry of family, heritage, duty and deceit.
I’m giving Motherdarling