‘It’s been thirty years since Anna’s sister disappeared.
Anna’s never stopped missing her.’
The Missing Girl is the debut novel from Jenny Quintana, a novel described as ‘a powerful, gripping and evocative debut, perfect for readers of Joanna Cannon and Kate Hamer.’ Just released in January 2018 by Mantle ( a Pan McMillan imprint) I was delighted with the opportunity to read an ARC copy and I bring you all my review today.
Read on for my thoughts…
Here’s what the back of the book says:
When Anna Flores’ adored older sister goes missing as a teenager, Anna copes by disappearing too, just as soon as she can: running as far away from her family as possible, and eventually building a life for herself abroad.
Thirty years later, the death of her mother finally forces Anna to return home. Tasked with sorting through her mother’s possessions, she begins to confront not just her mother’s death, but also the huge hole Gabriella’s disappearance left in her life – and finds herself asking a question she’s not allowed herself to ask for years: what really happened to her sister?
I knew from the Prologue of The Missing Girl, that here was a book that was going to be quite a visual read. I quoted the opening lines on Twitter that day and I will share them with you here now
‘You disappeared in the autumn of 1982, when the leaves switched their wardrobe from green to burnished brown, and our mother made great pots of jam from the fruit we picked in our garden. I was twelve, with clumsy clothes and National Health glasses. You were fifteen, crazy haired and willowy.’
Anna Flores is now in her forties. After escaping the claustrophobic atmosphere of her family home many years previously, Anna returns home. But for Anna, this is not a joyful homecoming. Now living in Greece, she receives a phone call that changes everything for her. Her mother has passed away unexpectedly. Anna makes the journey home with a certain amount of fear and trepidation, knowing that long hidden memories will now find there way to the surface.
Anna had escaped her hometown, packing her traumatic memories away, as she tried to move on with her life. Anna’s earlier years were always overshadowed by the mysterious disappearance of her older sister Gabriella, followed by the tragic and sudden death of her father.
Anna was twelve when Gabriella disappeared. Gabriella was everything Anna wanted to be. She had an energy, an aura that only the youth can ever possess. Gabriella was popular among her peers and was always very understanding of other kids who may have been a little different. Anna admired Gabriella, but was also very jealous of the attention she garnered from both girls and boys. Gabriella loved music, loved her fashion and had a typical rebellious teenage streak. Their mother, Esther, was a firm church goer and like any mother of teenage girls, tempers between them were oft times frayed.
Their Dad was a accumulator of antiques and collectibles, all of which he sold from his store, House of Flores. The girls used to meet up there regularly after school to hang out but one day Gabriella never showed up as planned. This was the day life for the Flores family changed forever.
When I first read the back of The Missing Girl I was so unprepared for what to expect. Would it be a murder mystery? A suspenseful read? Would I be able to guess the outcome? Would we ever find out what really happened to Gabriella Flores?
Jenny Quintana has written a book that deals with so many issues. We bare witness to a family that literally falls apart as they are consumed by the memory of their missing daughter. Life cannot move on, life will never be the same. For Anna Flores, her childhood ceased to exist on that fateful day in 1982. Gabriella’s disappearance became the core of her existence. Her mother, Esther, became a mere shadow of her former self and her poor father never recovered from the trauma. The police brought in suspects. There were televised re-enactments of Gabriella’s last sighting. There were many false sightings and after many years Gabriella’s disappearance was old news. For Anna, her life became a series of half-truths. In meeting with strangers, she chose not to mention the existence of the sister she once had, thereby preventing the inevitable sympathy and awkwardness that would follow.
With the passing of her mother, Anna now finds herself caught up in the memory again and starts to delve a little deeper back over the old newspaper cuttings and letters left behind by her mother.
Although there is a mystery to the core of The Missing Girl, it is not all that the book entails. The Missing Girl is an incredibly atmospheric debut with each character’s individual story beautifully portrayed. There is lost love, tragedy, grief, sadness and secrets….lots of secrets.
An impressive novel bursting with nostalgia and just the right amount of tension, The Missing Girl is a book I heartily recommend.
Filled with a sharp and vivid prose, Jenny Quintana has written a superb debut.
Purchase Link ~ The Missing Girl
I was very lucky to have the company of Jenny Quintana on my blog a few weeks back which you can read more about HERE. Jenny spoke about motivation as a writer and I thought I would share one quote here from the piece which I loved..
‘If I wanted to achieve my dream I had to give myself permission to make writing as important as the other parts of my life.’
About Jenny Quintana:
Jenny Quintana grew up in Essex and Berkshire, before studying English Literature in London. She has taught in London, Seville and Athens and has also written books for teaching English as a foreign language, alongside her fiction book The Missing Girl. She is a graduate of the Curtis Brown Creative writing course.
She now lives with her family in Berkshire.
Twitter ~ @jennyquintana95