When notorious child abductor – known as the Marsh King – escapes from a maximum security prison, Helena immediately suspects that she and her two young daughters are in danger.
No one, not even her husband, knows the truth about Helena’s past: they don’t know that she was born into captivity, that she had no contact with the outside world before the age of twelve – or that her father raised her to be a killer.
And they don’t know that the Marsh King can survive and hunt in the wilderness better than anyone… except, perhaps his own daughter.
Packed with gripping suspense and powerful storytelling, The Marsh King’s Daughter is a one-more-page, read-in-one-sitting thriller that you’ll remember for ever.
When I requested this book, I did so on the strength of hearing other reviewers say that it was good, but I hadn’t, at that stage, seen the blurb.
So when the book started with an extract from the Hans Christian Anderson story, I was unsure what to expect. It did not take long, however, for me to be completely pulled into the story and once I was, I devoured it in 24 hours.
This is terrific storytelling by an author with a strong voice and very individual style. It deals with the lives of a young woman and her daughter, Helena, the titular protagonist. Set in the marshlands of Upper Michigan, an unforgiving part of the country, The Marsh King’s Daughter, tells the story of Helena, born of a sometimes sadistic, always narcissistic father and a cowed and subdued mother whom he abducted when she was just 14 years old.
For most of her young life, Helena did not know what her background was. She only understood that she lived in a backwoods cabin and that her father had to be obeyed and that the punishment for failing to do so would be harsh.
Self-taught in reading skills, her only literature is a diminishing pile of National Geographic magazines and an all too fleetingly available book of poems by Robert Frost. Her mother, unsurprisingly, is no great shakes as a cook – indeed their cabin does not even have an oven, so she grows up on what they can forage and catch and kill.
All Helena knows about the world is what she reads in National Geographic and what her father teaches her. They never see anyone else and thus Helena has a complex and fascinating relationship with her parents.
She quickly learns that her father’s rule is law and as he teaches her to fish and hunt she learns to be as expert a tracker as he is himself.
Early on into the book we learn that Helena’s father has escaped from prison and it is against this backdrop that we learn about Helena’s early life, how she coped once she and her mother did finally get free of their father and how she is able to reconcile those parts of her that she has kept secret from those who are now her closest family.
I loved the writing in this story and the way that Karen Dionne has cleverly woven her emotional material into a tangled web of love, compassion and betrayal.
A first rate book and a five star must read.
The Marsh King’s Daughter was published in ebook by Sphere on 13 June 2017 and in hardback on June 29th