BOOK REVIEW: Perfect Daughter

By Vivien Horler Time of article published Nov 23, 2015

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Perfect Daughter

Amanda Prowse

(Head Zeus/ Jonathan Ball)

Middle age is a tricky place to be. There is a good chance that not only are you dealing with elderly or even failing parents, you are also coping with hormone-driven and often self-destructive teenagers.

That’s on top of everyday concerns of work being difficult, the credit card bill being inexplicable, the car needing an important service and the washing machine giving up the ghost, spilling water all over the kitchen floor.

Nearly 20 years ago, Jacks and Pete got married, mainly because she was pregnant. She was just out of school, and so was he, but their parents stepped up and bought them a three-bedroomed terrace house in Weston-super-Mare, a seaside resort in Somerset, England.

They didn’t plan to stay long in the house, though – a few years and then they’d trade up, buy one of those fancy beachfront houses.

But now the baby, Martha, is going on 19, ready to sit her A-levels (matric), Jack’s mother is living with them and in dementia, and they’re still in the terrace house, along with Martha’s little brother Jonty.

The house is too small, money is tight, the old lady’s nappy needs changing, Jonty needs help with his project to create a model of a famous building from recycling, and Martha needs her shirt ironed.

Things haven’t worked out for Jacks – she doesn’t think she’ll ever get her dream conservatory – but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t work out for Martha. The girl is pretty and bright. She’ll go to university and study law and fly, live in London or New York.

When things seem too much for Jacks, she thinks of her dreams for Martha and the love of her good husband. And she has the golden memories of a boy she knew at school who once promised her the world. He did not actually deliver, but it is a time she can still savour in times of stress.

Then one day Jacks’s friend Gina discovers that the boy from school is in London, exhibiting yachts at the Boat Show, and suggests she and Jacks go to town for the day and say hello.

So they do, and things are never quite the same again.

Amanda Prowse writes about families from the inside. Situations and dialogue are entirely credible, and you fear for Jacks and her ambitions. This is a warm and absorbing tale, perfect holiday reading.

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