From the second we meet our first protagonist, Anne, chopping vegetables in the kitchen for a casserole, Elizabeth Day makes it immediately apparent that there is something wrong with this family. Thoughout the book, she deftly draws unresolved tensions and makes the air stiflingly heavy with unsaid words, so that the reader feels discomfited throughout. She creates three characters who appear to be completely rounded. Anne - once beautiful and vibrant - now feeling crushed under the weight of her own disappointments and resentments, and still desperately longing for her husband's approval. Charles - who could have easily become a pantomime villain - who is, turns, manipulative, subtly abusive, and wilfully indifferent. And, the girl who had the misfortune to be born their daughter, Charlotte, is given a nuanced portrayal of a betrayal that left her determined to be in control of her life and the secrets of her past.
The story of the ramifications, years later, of a father's inappropriate interest is delicately handled. The descriptions of feelings - of guilt, disgust, apprehension - are all articulated excellently.
The novel loses a star from me because, while her main three characters appear very lifelike, her peripheral characters (Janet, Gabriel) are fairly one-dimensional. Gabriel, especially, came across as strictly a saintly character - full of patience and goodness - sent purely to help Charlotte to heal from her past. Also, while some of her descriptions are excellent, some of her other descriptions are extraneous (a person drinking coffee is said to feel the liquid running down their throat) or weak (she has a tendency to over-use "rolling [their] eyes").
But it's still a very good novel, and Elizabeth Day is an author I'll be watching out for in future.