The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Psychological Thriller
'I was born two years into my mother's captivity. She was three weeks shy of seventeen. If I had known then what I do now, things would have been a lot different. I wouldn't have adored my father.'
The Marsh King's Daughter is the first book I've read by this author and I must say it was a very compelling read. I love it when I get pulled into a book from the very first page like I was with this one. Based on the description and tag lines, I was expecting a bit more of a thriller here. It was more psychological than thriller, although it did have its moments, especially towards the end.
Helena is married with two daughters and she's been keeping a secret from everyone, including her husband. Helena was born into captivity. Her father was the infamous Marsh King, the man who abducted a 14 year old girl and kept her there as his 'wife' and after Helena was born kept her there too in a remote cabin away from civilization. Helena wasn't aware of any of this as she grew up, not until she and her mother escaped when she is 12 years old. One day on the way home from an outing Helena hears on the radio that her father has escaped from prison and immediately fears for her family's safety. The book alternates between past and present as Helena tells us her story.
"I won't tell you my mother's name. Because this isn't her story. It's mine"
I appreciated the fact that this wasn't Helena's mother's story and that I wasn't privy to the horrible things she went through any more than her daughter was. The details of rape and most of the beatings were left out of the story. I don't think that I could have read this had it been from the mother's perspective.
I think the author did an admirable job of showing what it would be like to be raised in captivity (even though Helena didn't know she was) and the psychological effect it has on her and on her mother. The way her father shaped who she became, the way he turned her against her mother, and the way her mother was almost invisible as a person to her was hard to read at times. There were times when I wanted to hate Helena because she idolized her father and felt next to nothing for her mother, but I could understand why so I couldn't hate her. Even as an adult though, sometimes her thoughts about her parents infuriated me, then I would have to remind myself that she was psychologically manipulated as a child and so her view was inaccurate to an extent even as an adult. In the end though it did seem like she finally understood everything the way it really was.
I liked the ending of the book and the showdown with her father was good and had its thrilling moments, but it felt a bit rushed considering how much time was spent on the backstory. I felt like the past, even though it was essential to the story, actually took over a little too much of the book. Overall this was very good though and I recommend it.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher G.P. Putnam's Sons for giving me a copy of this book.
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