Title: Things I Want My Daughter To Know
Author: Elizabeth Noble
Published: William Morrow April 2008
Synopsis: Symbolically presiding over this emotionally powerful novel is the recently deceased Barbara Forbes. Before she succumbed to cancer, Barbara thoughtfully composed letters to each of her four daughters. This novel, Elizabeth Noble’s fourth, follows the sisters as they cope with their shared loss and attempt to navigate their futures, guided partly by their mother’s posthumous notes.
Status: Read from May 07 to 09, 2011
Barbara’s death from cancer is devastating for her four daughters and their grief proves to be a catalyst for change as each struggles to come to terms with their loss. Knowing her time was short, Barbara wrote each much loved daughter a letter and bequeathed them her diary to share her thoughts and offer them encouragement in moving on with their lives. These gifts are both a source of comfort and distress for the girls, revealing loving truths and family secrets.
Noble deftly avoids the potential for cloying sentimentality, given the premise, with wry observation and a hint of the famous British ‘stiff upper lip’. Yet it also lacks the emotional impact I was expecting, leaving me largely unaffected by the fairly conventional storyline. The story unfolds through a combination of Barbara’s letters and journal entries, the voices of her daughters’ – Lisa, Jen, Amanda and Hannah, and Barbara’s husband, Mark in the year following her death. It’s an effective story telling technique, allowing each character to share their personal experiences and illustrate their familial relationships. The girls face fairly predictable problems – Lisa is afraid of committing to her boyfriend, Jen’s reluctance to have a child is placing a strain on her marriage, Amanda’s wanderlust hides her insecurity and Hannah is navigating her teen years without her mother’s guidance. These issues are treated with sensitivity though without any marked depth. I did appreciate that Noble carefully exploited her characters flaws which kept me interested, even if not particularly concerned, in the choices they faced and the decisions they made.
Things I Want My Daughter To Know was a rather ordinary read for me despite it’s appealing premise. There is nothing particularly wrong with it, it simply failed to capture my imagination.