Mother Loves Me by Abby Davies

Got myself a crying, talking, sleeping, walking, living doll…

😀 😀 😀 😀

Mother Loves MePoor Mirabelle is never allowed to go outside. Mother has explained that she has a severe allergy to light and if the sun shone on her she would die, painfully. Mirabelle has wondered if she couldn’t maybe go out in the evening then, after sunset, but Mother has told her that there are evil people out there at night who would do bad things to her. So Mirabelle lives her life inside her home, all the windows boarded up to stop light from getting in, all the doors locked to stop Mirabelle from getting out. But there’s one good thing in her life – Mother loves her. Every morning Mother paints Mirabelle’s face and dresses her so she looks just like a doll – Mother’s little doll. And then on her thirteenth birthday, Mother brings home a surprise – a little sister called Clarabelle, although the new little doll claims her name is Emma. And Mirabelle isn’t Mother’s favourite any more…

Written as Mirabelle’s own past-tense narrative, Davies manages to get a huge amount of tension into the story as Mirabelle begins to realise that everything Mother has told her may not be true. Admittedly, her voice and actions don’t always fit with her age – she sometimes speaks and acts like an older teenager, almost adult, and it’s hard to believe that she has as good a knowledge of the world as she has, given that everything she knows comes from books. But for the most part I found that issue quite easy to ignore, and I enjoyed the way Davies references the books Mirabelle has acquired her knowledge from, and how she models her actions on the heroes and heroines she has found in them.

While the thriller aspect goes well over the credibility line in the later stages, the basic premise is pretty terrifying because it’s so believable. And yet it’s not quite as dark as some of these stories about people being kept locked up for years because the baddie in this case is a woman, and therefore there’s no aspect of sexual abuse regarding Mirabelle or Clarabelle. Mother simply wants a living doll of her own, and so long as Mirabelle doesn’t make her angry then life is bearable, and it’s all she’s known. It’s only when she begins to realise Mother’s deception that Mirabelle becomes first confused, then unhappy and finally angry.

Abby Davies
Abby Davies

The writing style is simple, as befits a narrative from a thirteen-year-old, but it has some nice touches that make it an enjoyable read – the book references I mentioned earlier, the way Davies builds tension and shows us Mirabelle’s fear and her methods of controlling it, and her sense of wonder about the world she has never seen. I also liked how Davies managed to give a sense of both time and place to the reader even though all we have to go on is Mirabelle’s very restricted viewpoint. I wouldn’t say I ever came to have any sympathy for Mother, but Davies adds enough depth to her character to prevent her from merely being a pantomime villain, and she does a good job of showing how hard it is for Mirabelle to trust her own judgement about Mother given the years of brainwashing to which she’s been subjected. By the time it all goes a bit over the top towards the end, I was too invested in Mirabelle’s peril to get overly critical. And while it may not be strictly credible, I have to admit that nothing in it would be completely impossible…

Fast-paced, creepy, highly suspenseful, a bit gory in the latter stages but not too much so – given that it’s not really my usual kind of thing, I enjoyed this one considerably more than I thought I would.

20 books 2019Book 6 of 20

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, HarperCollins.

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34 thoughts on “Mother Loves Me by Abby Davies

  1. I think it’s really difficult for authors to write convincing child narrators – the only book for adults I’ve ever read where I felt like the child narrator actually sounded developmentally appropriate was My Name is Leon. It sounds like this author came closer to getting it right than a lot of writers do, at least!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I usually avoid child narrators because they so rarely sound true, and frankly if the kid is five, do I even want to read a book written as if by a five-year-old?? Teens are a bit easier and with Mirabelle not going out into the world the whole question of slang could be happily avoided.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This doesn’t sound too bad actually, it seems to have covered some important issues about confinement and co-dependency, and the idea of the girl trying to construct a personality and identity of her own through the heroes and heroines she has encountered through books is also intriguing. I think most bookworms probably engage in some form of this to a certain extent when young, even without abusive childhoods, I know I certainly did. Too bad the story became a bit silly and over the top in the end, but that is often the way of it with these kinds of stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I certainly did too – half the time I was trying to be George from the Famous Five and the other half I was trying to be Anne of Green Gables! I still think Anne was as big an influence on the formation of my character as most of the actual adults I knew. So I really enjoyed that aspect and because the book was set back a bit in time, the books she referenced were mostly ones I’d read as a child or teenager too. Yes, it seems to be in the nature of the thriller to go over the top at the end, so the author has to make sure that by that stage the reader’s willing to go along for the ride – and she did that pretty well!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the sound of this one, I don’t often read something with a child narrator – in fact I can’t remember the last time that I did but if it’s done well (which it sounds as though this one is) then it doesn’t put me off reading even though it’s a concept that can be tricky to get right. I’ll put it on my list 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • I usually avoid young child narrators, but I’m more willing to go along with teenagers, although it can still be really hard to get right. With Mirabelle, because she was locked in, there was no problem with teenage slang at least, which helped! If you get to this one sometime, I hope you enjoy it! :d

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This does sound creepy, FictionFan! And, sadly, the premise sounds credible, too. Perhaps that’s why it sounds as creepy as it does. You make an interesting point about the narrative. It’s really hard to get young voices right. If I may say so, I’m running into that challenge as I work on my current story; the protagonist is fifteen, and that’s not always as easy an age to write as you might think! Anyway, this sounds like a solid story, and I can see how you’d forgive a bit of ‘over the top’ if the tension is that good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that basic credibility of premise is so important in taking the reader along when the action goes a bit over the top. And Mother really creeped me out – especially since I kept imagining Norman Bates’ voice every time the word Mother was used… 😉 Yes, I think kids and teens are really hard for adults to get right because they always have a language of their own and it changes all the time. And it must be hard to keep their thoughts “age-appropriate” too, since they all mature at such different speeds.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, too many true stories of people being abducted and held for years, but I was so relieved that this one had a female baddie and wasn’t a story about sex abuse – somehow that made it not quite so grim.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It was one of the ones that popped through my door unsolicited – I would never have picked it from the blurb. But the author managed to get me hooked straight away and I ended up enjoying it – job well done!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I find books like this both fascinating and disturbing. And I know exactly what you mean about being okay with some of the credibility issues once you’ve become so invested in the story. After all, it’s fiction!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, there is something fascinating about the idea, and this one was slightly less disturbing because the baddie was female, so it wasn’t one of the dreaded sex abuse stories. I’m completely inconsistent about books that go over the credibility line, so when I don’t mind it, like this one, I always assume that’s down to the talent of the author. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m glad you enjoyed this one, FF. I haven’t read it, but I hope to one day. It sounds like a perfect wintertime read, accompanied by a big mug of hot chocolate and some cookies to nibble on. What a creepy Mother!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Perfect for a long dark evening! And it’s one of those page-turners that don’t take long to read because you’re motivated to know what happens to poor Mirabelle. Ha, every time the word Mother was used, I kept hearing Norman Bates’ voice in my head… 😱

      Liked by 1 person

    • I really enjoyed the book aspect and because it’s set a bit back in time it meant that I’d read most of the books she referenced too as a child or teenager, which added to the enjoyment. And the basic premise was horribly believable… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh wow, that sounds proper creepy! I’m glad you enjoyed it, the premise sounded like it could be a bit formulaic, similar to something which has been written before (although when I tried to think of an example I couldn’t). But perhaps I just generally find thrillers formulaic especially in the post “Gone Girl” era.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think there have been quite a few abducted-and-held-prisoner books – Room springs to mind – but what I liked about this one was that the baddie was female, so her motivation wasn’t sexual abuse. Made her creepier and at the same time stopped the book from becoming too grim and voyeuristic. Yes, I find thrillers formulaic too but sometimes I’m happy to go along for the ride, and I always assume the credit for that has to go to the author… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  8. The red dress and shoes on the cover suggest a fairytale underlay to this, with Mother as a cross between wolf and witch. Definitely as creepy as the Cliff Richard song you quote!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha, that’s a pretty good description of Mother! Unfortunately the red-jacketed female has become the signal for woman in peril thrillers over the last few years, so much so it’s become a cliché which is more likely to put me off a book than attract me to it. But I guess it must work or publishers would stop doing it…

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This sounds properly creepy, just your opening paragraph was creepy enough! The literary angle is interesting, did you know the books that were referenced?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was the possibility of it that made it feel so creepy – too easy to imagine it happening! Yes, she stuck pretty much to children’s classics like The Secret Garden and having nothing else to occupy her Mirabelle was quite a precocious reader so there were some adult classics too, like Austen. She did that aspect well, I thought – designed to appeal to bookish people!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it could easily have tipped into caricature, but I thought she handled it pretty well – if she could keep someone as cynical as me on her side she must have done something right! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I actually knew of a woman who had a daughter and the woman and her sister told the girl that she was very delicate and couldn’t ever live a normal life, and it was all so that they could keep control of her forever, the poor girl was brainwashed to believe that she could drop dead at any moment and it was all nonsense. They were really evil!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good heavens! That was the thing about this story, though – although I’ve never come across it in real life, it all felt very possible. And when it’s a child and the “mother” has been telling her these stories all her life, how would the child know it was a lie? It did creep me out, and made me wonder how often these things happen without anyone being aware. Your story just confirms that feeling!

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  11. This definitely isn’t a book I’d normally expect you to read, but I can see why you like it-it sounds super creepy!!! And like you say, when you’re enjoying the book itself, we tend to give the author more leeway in terms of believability, I do the same thing. Sadly, people being locked up and manipulated like this is something we know to happen often.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do like getting the random books from HarperCollins – they’re usually not things I’d pick, but I quite often end up enjoying them, to my own surprise! I liked that this one wasn’t quite as dark as some of the abduction books are, because the baddie was a woman. I couldn’t have read it if it had been about sexual abuse…

      Liked by 1 person

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