Some of the most popular crime thriller novels of recent times seem to be so compelling due to an unreliable narrator taking the lead. In novels such as Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, we are introduced to a main character, who in the telling of their own story, still leaves room for doubt as to the truthfulness of their account. That kind of premise is what drew me to this book, along with critical acclaim from other reviewers.
Estelle Paradise is struggling with motherhood. Her husband Jack is always busy with work and her baby daughter Mia never stops crying. Alone in a new home Estelle is pushed to breaking point and then the unthinkable happens. Baby Mia disappears.
Estelle does not report the disappearance and is found days later in a car accident with no memory of recent events. Terrified of her own dark thoughts and judged by the police and the media, Estelle embarks on a psychological battle with herself to try and recall what happened to her missing child.
This book really goes to some dark places in a taut exploration of marriage and motherhood. Her marriage to Jack seems rushed and from the start I didn’t really think they fitted as a couple. Mia swiftly arrives and then her subsequent disappearance puts even more strain on Jack and Estelle’s relationship.
Estelle’s struggle with motherhood is deeply explored. I think there can be a public assumption that motherhood is something that comes naturally to all women but of course the experience is not so straight forward for some and Estelle struggles to cope. It doesn’t help that Jack is always away and she doesn’t seem to have much control over anything in her life.
She is not a character I warmed to necessarily but I really felt for her during such an obviously emotional and stressful ordeal. From the beginning, Estelle’s thoughts and feelings are laid out in their entirety. The reader is literally a passenger inside her head as memories and thought processes play out in her mind. Some parts were a little too drawn out for me personally, but I think that just shows how detailed the prose is in constructing Estelle’s story.
The last half of the book was especially gripping, the twists becoming corkscrews, and you start second guessing everything you think you know about what happened to baby Mia. Alexandra Burt uses striking metaphors and a disconcerting narrative voice to create an unsettling story that draws you in and keeps hold. Little Girl Gone is a tense tale that will keep you guessing right up to the end.