Having the central character of a debut novel, in this case, Katherine/Katty/Kathy, wash up in a loch makes for an intriguing start to the story that is Lullaby Girl
. Author Aly Sidgwick has opted for an introduction which lures the reader in with mystery and intrigue, rather than the far-too familiar usual conversation, and the book is all the better for it.
What perhaps is most appealing about the book, certainly during the first half, is the Danish lullaby Kathy hums and sings - just trying to picture her doing so gives off an eerie feeling, which, as the story progresses, comes to be justified. She is not eager to speak, but instead, whether she is aware of it or not, it is the lullaby which greatly helps her and the staff of Gille Dubh as they try to piece together her past.
Readers will no doubt find themselves identifying with Kathy as she struggles to open up about what has happened to her, but at the same time, the staff of Gille Dubh do their best to help. Rhona in particular, despite all the difficulties, never once gives up (although Kathy thinks she does and has on more than one occasion) and I for one think we could all do with someone so supportive in our lives. Regardless of her own issues, she goes above and beyond expectation and duty to offer Kathy her assistance, and that in itself makes her a stand-out character within the story.
The inclusion of therapy sessions and the exhaustive impact they have upon Kathy is well written and delivered throughout the pages - so many readers will understand what it's like to go through and reflect on a difficult moment in life and feel the energy drain from them as a result.
There are a few twists and turns in the story, some of which I didn't expect, (SPOILER: I actually thought she'd killed Hans, as she did), but for me, the closing few chapters are some of the best. The bitter-sweet reunion Kathy has with her father after so many years away is heart-warming, if not a little difficult, as Kathy finally puts together the many pieces of the puzzle that have made up her life thus far. There is one line, on page 400, that will stay with me for some time:
"Only by letting go will I free myself."
I think we can all take this message to heart, and remind ourselves that we can't always control events in our lives, and that we can't change the past. However we are all still living and, rather than dwelling, we should look positively ahead to the future.
For a debut novel, this is hard-hitting and rather gritty at times. It certainly isn't your typical 'rom-com/family story' release by a new author, but by moving away from the norm, Sidgwick brings to the forefront issues in today's society that very few people ever want to address - mental illness, psychological abuse and depression. For that, she should be greatly admired, as should the story within which she has encased such issues.
is available now from Amazon
and all good retailers!