I have just finished reading The Cemetery Girl by David Bell and while it is fresh in my mind thought I’d write a quick review of it.
Briefly the story is about a 12 year old girl who goes missing, believed kidnapped and how the family cope with that over the four years that she is gone and then how they cope when she finally returns, not saying anything about where she has been.
When I read the synopsis I thought that sounded like a promising story, and indeed it was. For the first half of the book. Bell tells the story from the father’s point of view in the first person and initially manages to capture his bewilderment and the constant questioning of himself that we would all do if, God forbid, this happened to any of us. However, once Caitlin, the daughter, returns the pace slows down so much that I found myself willing the characters into conflict. There was quite a bit of pointless dialogue where nothing further was gained and conversations were also repeated, albeit in a slightly different way.
My main problem with this book however was the development, or lack thereof, of the relationships throughout the book. The whole novel is based around Tom’s relationship with his family and those who try to help during the transition from Caitlin’s disappearance to her subsequent return and integration back into the family. It is obvious that he doesn’t agree with his wife or her way of coping but that is never fully explored. Abby, the wife, displays some fairly odd behaviour but we never really find out why. Tom’s relationship with his brother, Buster also leaves a lot to be desired descriptively speaking. Tom accuses him of being the kidnapper on more than one occasion and even asks if he slept with Caitlin. Buster, however doesn’t appear to react to these accusations in any way that I believe a reasonable person would. He still comes round to chat to Caitlin, and Tom and Abby seem quite happy for this to happen. Then in the next chapter Tom and Buster, are together again discussing possible scenarios for what may have happened, before Tom accuses him again of some nefarious act.
Lastly, although I am trying not to give any plot spoilers, we never actually find out completely what happened to Caitlin, or why she behaves the way she does. It was as if Bell got bored of the story and decided to leave us in suspense. The majority of the text was leading up to getting Caitlin to talk and building the tension but the climax never materialised and left me very disappointed as a reader.
What started out as a great story with a very promising plot, fell flat and did not deliver what Bell set out to do, give us a great story about relationships under extreme circumstances. Maybe this was because the characters themselves were underdeveloped. I don’t know but I won’t be in any hurry to buy his next book.