Losing her adopted mother threatens all she's ever had....
Daisy was adopted, but when her mother dies, she finds her secure existence thrown into turmoil by the discovery of a scrapbook. Inside is information of her real mother.
However, when Daisy drops everything to go in search of her roots, she uncovers a harrowing story of greed, misery and corruption. She also risks hurting her adored Dad, the only tru family she has left.
Can she cope with the truth of her real parents? And more importantly, who is the real Daisy?
"Characters it is impossible not to care about" ~ Daily Mail.
I'd previously discovered Lesley Pearse a few years back when I read her book, Stolen, which was brilliant. I'd always planned to read another of hers but you know what it's like when you get a pile to read, I'd just never gotten round to it.
I discovered Father Unknown in my local shop and the back of the page information had me gripped as did the title. What I expected and what I got from the book, however, were two things entirely different!
I was expecting a novel of a girl trying to find her father, what I got was a novel starting off based in Chiswick, London in 1990, with young girl named Daisy caring for her sick mum, Lorna.
The first couple of chapters of the book are based around Lorna passing, Daisy was there and had wanted to phone her dad and twin siblings, John, Tim and Lucy but her mother declined and instead the book gives you the image of an emotional embrace between mother and daughter on their precious last few moments talking about memories and Lorna's wish for Daisy to find her biological mother.
When the others arrive home, Lucy in particular isn't impressed Daisy was there without the others and blames her for not calling them. As the next few weeks follow and Lorna's funeral arrives there is much sibling rivalry between the two girls resulting in a massive argument in which Daisy accidentally injures her sister.
Feeling like an out cast to the family, Daisy fleas to her boyfriend, Joel's house.
When her dad pays her a visit to say how missed she is, they have a deep heart to heart and as a reader we discover a little more about their family background and more of the two girls... Daisy is beautiful, more carefree and jumps in without thinking, where as Lucy is plain, a planner but has the brains. Each envys the other ones traits.
John leaves with Daisy agreeing to go home after the weekend and to work things out with her sister, he then hands her a box in which Lorna had made for her...photos and memories from childhood.. At the bottomed the box there were two envelopes.
The first containing adoption papers and Daisy's original birth certificate. The second a heartfelt and emotion letter from Lorna.
Chapter Three of Father Unknown is based in Cornwall and takes you back to 1955. The main bulk of the book from here on in is based on Ellen and Josie Pengelly, two sisters with a mass of curly red hair, daughters to a farmer, Albert and his wife,Violet.
Ellen discovers that Violet is in fact her step mother, Josie therefore being her half sister. Her mother died with a sibling when she jumped to her death long before Ellen could remember.
One of the things I love about Pearse's writing style is her ability to write great details. Through the next several chapters I felt like I was in Cornwall to a time before TVs and social media!! I developed a great sense how difficult times were and not only that, the story of of the Pengelly's was in such detail I could instantly picture the scenes and conversations everytime I picked the book up.
As the novel unfolds, it's very clear that both sisters are unhappy with aspects of their home life. Ellen isn't loved by Violet, is the apple of Alberts eye and loves helping on the farm. Josie is loved by their mother but isn't shown so much effection from Albert.
The girls however much is thrown in their way, are close and tell each other everything, suddenly they are parted when Violet takes Josie away and Ellen throws herself into her summer job.
When a circus comes to town, she falls for one of the trapeze artists, Pierre, and ends up offering him her virginity the night before the circus moves out of town ~ Pierre leaves without a goodbye breaking Ellen's heart.
The only thing that keeps Ellen going when she discovers she's pregnant is that Josie is home again and the one other person she can confide in, an older neighbour, Mrs Peters who helps her see a way out keeping her secret safe from her father.
Eventually Ellen moves to Bristol to become a mothers help until she gives birth, meanwhile Josie runs away from Cornwall back to London where is is dead set on becoming a model.
The girls keep in touch via letter before the occasional visits however it's is clear they aren't as close as they once were. Ellen is trying to move on from her heartbreak of giving away her daughter Catherine, whilst Josie is heading down a road of no return getting herself caught up in drink and drugs, being exploited and used for sex.
Every time she gets in trouble she heads to Bristol where Ellen would bail her out and hear promises to change, except whenever the next visit came the trouble was double if not more.
The last third of the book is back with Daisy in 1991. Not really knowing what to do with her life despite becoming a qualified chef since her mothers death, or knowing if she really belongs with her family or even of that she still loves Joel, she decides to head firstly to Bristol to see where her real, biological mother, Ellen, lived before going to Cornwall to see if she can find out who she really is.
Whilst there she meets Mrs Peters who tells her of a tragic fire at the Pengelly farm a few years back where Albert, Violet and Josie, whom had moved back with her parents, had all lost their lives. Ellen hadn't kept contact with Mrs Peters, presumably through heart break and bad memories, and this sparks off a new search for Daisy.
A search in which leads her back to London, where eventually she finds her birth mother Ellen, although some things don't sit right with Daisy she knows that she has to give things time, and when Ellen still doesn't budge on giving details of her birth, contacting Mrs Peters or meeting her adoptive family, Daisy takes matters into her own hands and arranges a meeting anyway.
The shock comes, and I certainly didn't see this one coming, was the line from Mrs Peters when Daisy took her to Ellen, claiming it wasn't Ellen but in fact Josie!!
As Daisy listens to the now elderly ladies reasons for her new found mother being her aunt she realises from the stories she'd read and the things she knew there had to be some truth in it and so rather than going home she decides to confront Josie for the truth... Not knowing what the real Josie is actually capable of!
Daisy eventually discovers the reasons on why Josie modelled herself to her sister, the jealously, the drink, the drugs and life she left feeling worthless and in turn realises that even though throughout discovering her biological roots and the history of the Pengelly's she still has no idea of her real dad, she has all the love, support and family she ever needed in John, Tom, Lucy and of course Joel.
Lesley Pearse tackled many issues of love and loss, sex and drugs in the height of the sixties, sibling rivalry and greed in Father Unknown yet managed to keep the readers interest by keeping the themes linked throughout where before I've found that other authors are unable to do so resulting in a boring book.
This was a truly wonderful read that had me gripped as I'm sure it will others too.