Once upon a time, Jacks Morgan had dreams.
She would have a career and travel the world. She would own a house on the beach, and spend long nights with her boyfriend strolling under the stars.
But life had other ideas. First Martha came along, then Jonty. Then her elderly mother moved in, and now their little terrace in Weston-super-Mare is bursting at the seams.
Jacks gave up on her dreams to look after her family. If only, just for once, her family would look after her…
Perfect Daughter by Amanda Prowse Review
A Perfectly Imperfect Portrayal of Real Family Life
Many people think that if you’re a writer tasked to read and review other people’s novels, it must be like taking a Busman’s holiday. But I don’t believe that to be the case. The best and most rewarding part of my job, is being able to read the words of others and call it work. Even better when you can do that in a lovely setting.
This time, I have been incredibly lucky with both. As I jetted off on holiday to the South of France with my family, I was not sure if I was more excited about taking a break from my laptop, spending quality time with my daughters, or sneaking away with my latest book. You can’t really call that work, can you?
I engineered this you see. I knew I was going away and I planned my Book Club reading rotation around it. I knew that if I was to be sat by a crystal clear salt water pool high up in the French mountains above Nice, I wanted to indulge with a book that I could truly get lost in – Amanda Prowse you did not disappoint.
Perfect Daughter is a title that intrigued me to begin with. Each of us hopes and prays that one day we will be tagged with that accolade. We all have a secret desire to be called ‘the perfect daughter’, but I did not expect to be drawn so deeply into the story quite so quickly. Any mother reading this book will instantly draw parallels to her own life, not because it is a predicable book, far from it, more so because the story explores issues that we all deal with in our day to day life.
The main character, Jacks, grew up with grand ideas for what her future would hold. Love, lust, travel and excitement. The reality of life, however, is nowhere near as glamorous. Still living in their first small marital home, their eldest daughter Martha battles with her mother daily and resents sharing a room with her much younger brother. It can’t be helped. Jacks has taken her elderly mother into the family home too. Life is busy, the home is cramped, and there is never enough money to go around, let alone splash out on her dreams of a conservatory.
Life is life. It is not glamorous. It is not stylish. The lampshades in her bedroom annoy her and the boxes in the hallway have been sat there for far too long. Then life runs away with us. One day we are young teenagers with dreams of taking over the world, the next day we are wheeling our mothers down to the seafront wondering how it all slipped by so fast.
With an ailing mother who is battling her own demons and slipping further and further into the clutches of Alzheimers’ dark arms, Jacks goes about talking us through her mundane life. The daily chores and rigmaroles that each of us slip into on the other side of the married gates. As I read the descriptions and followed her daily routine, I found myself feeling uncomfortable. It really is that easy to let things slip. One day rolls into the next and before you know it a year has gone by.
I felt less like I was escaping my own world, and more like I was being shown a porthole to the future. All the fears that each of us face but never discuss. The fear of growing old and not achieving our dreams. The uncomfortable feeling was not a bad thing – it propelled me through the book. I was desperate to see how Jacks would change her life.
The mistake I made when I first picked up this book was to think that the title referred to just one relationship in the novel, the relationship between Jacks and her ailing mother and the battle she faced every day when looking after the woman she was so sure hated her. I assumed the book was about watching her struggle to give up her life to care for a woman that barely recognised her most days. But the mother daughter relationship does not end there.
Jacks determination to be a better mother to her own daughter, Martha, plays a massive role in the book. Her desire to ensure her daughter’s path in life is so much easier than her own is a dynamic that I am sure resonates with most of the mothers out there. I know it was something that struck a deep chord with me.
Jacks fears when she sees the perfect life she has mapped out for her own daughter slowly slipping from her grasp makes the tension in this book palpable. You scream and shout at both mother and daughter, desperate to help and advise them and explain where they are going wrong. It makes you look at your own relationships a little deeper.
I won’t give away the ending to the book – that in my eyes would be pure sacrilege. However, if you are expecting a massive bomb of a twist at the end you will be disappointed. The ending is subtle, and yes some may say a little predictable – but that is what I truly loved about the book. It was real.
The ending mirrored real life. Faced with the exact same situations Jacks is put in, there is not a mother alive that would say she would react any differently. To end this story with a massive bomb shell or an unrealistic twist would not do credit to its genuine nature.
Amanda Prowse has written about painful, hurtful, difficult real life in the most exquisite way. She has take the situations that we would live through and made us feel like we are not alone in the world.
Instead of being transported to a life and a world I have never experienced or indulging in unrealistic romances, I spent the days of my holiday reading a novel about real life and it left me feeling grateful.
As I placed the book on the sun lounger at the end of a lovely relaxing holiday, I did not find myself dreaming of replacing the heroine of the book and tripping off to exotic lands, nor escaping into the clutches of a hero that will sweep me off my feet. Instead I looked at my two beautiful daughters playing on the grass and vowed to do better by them. I hugged them close and was grateful for all the mistakes I have made and the mistakes my mother made with me. I looked at my husband and was grateful to have a man who stands by my side.
To understand why – you need to read the book. Not because it’s escapism but because it’s real life.
Perfect Daughter by Amanda Prowse is published by Head of Zeus