I read and reviewed ‘The Doctor’s Daughter’ as part of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.
I had really high expectations of this novel having seen some excellent reviews. There is no doubt that Ms Matthews can write, and write well, and this is a very clever story, with some fabulously drawn characters, a wonderful attention to historical detail and a real sense of time and place that lends the novel a real authenticity.
The subject matter is dark in places and the characters are portrayed flaws and all, in an unflinching manner that some may find difficult to read. This wasn’t an issue for me – I prefer characters to be realistic, to behave in a way that is believable and admire and appreciate authors that don’t resort to happily-ever-afters or false sentimentality.
Marta is an intriguing character, and it is refreshing for a novel to feature such an interesting heroine. Elise, somewhat softer than Marta, is also a very readable character. I wanted to know more about them both and was interested in what happened to them.
The plot is dark and full of twists and surprises, all very gripping, well-paced and intelligently written.
So there is much to admire in this novel and much to admire in Ms Matthews’ writing. However, I felt so frustrated by this book. There is so much potential here but there is too much ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’. We are given a lot of background details about characters and their experiences and feelings in big sections of prose, rather than being ‘shown’ these things, experiencing them with the characters.
Dialogue sometimes felt rather unnatural and too formal.
The most frustrating thing for me though was that most of the dialogue was punctuated incorrectly throughout the book; not just once or twice, an error that could be overlooked, but consistently. The author obviously cares about her novel, about her craft, which is why I was so surprised by these errors. It may not seem like a big issue or something to be so frustrated by, but I found myself increasingly irritated. Maybe I’m being overly pedantic, but it’s frustrating that the author has obviously put so much into this book and yet has overlooked something so basic.
It’s a real shame, because this could be an absolutely brilliant novel.