First Impressions – ‘Darling Rose Gold’ by Stephanie Wrobel

Author: Stephanie Wrobel
Jacket design: Emily Osborne
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psychological thriller
Published: March 2020
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK
Media type: Print
Pages: 346

Where do I start with this book?

The book has this sentence that it uses in the cover, which summarises the premise of this book –

Because if mothers never forget, then daughters never forgive.

The protagonist, Rose Gold, has a difficult life due to an unidentified illness that carries on throughout her childhood as well as her teenage years. Her mother, Patty Watts, raising her singlehandedly, is constantly by her side, playing the role of a nurse, a teacher and a friend. That is, until Rose Gold discovers that her mother has been poisoning her all along.

Patty Watts, nicknamed ‘Poisonous Patty’, is taken to court. Rose testifies against her mother, and Patty is sentenced to five years in prison. Five years later, Rose allows Patty back into her life – but at what price? Does Patty have a score to settle? Or has Rose truly gotten over the years of abuse?

The chapters are written in first person, alternating between Rose Gold during the 5 year period and Patty Watts in present day. The narrative gives a good insight to the personalities of the two women – to how different they are, and how similar mother and daughter can be. The narrative is crisp for the most part, except in parts where Patty describes the relationships she had with the towns people before she got arrested and convicted; or in parts of Rose’s one-way friendship with her childhood friend Alex. The narrative weaves the past and the present together, and leaves you wondering whether the past will repeat itself again, or whether the five years Rose spent away from her mother brought about enough change in her to stand up against her mother.

Because through both Patty’s and Rose’s narrative, one thing is certain – Patty’s got a couple of screws loose. Through Patty’s mental logic, and through Rose’s recollections of her, Patty’s personality comes through – her manipulation, her need for absolute control, her ability to justify everything she does, her conviction towards the righteousness of her actions towards her daughter. Every red flag possible pops up, one after the other, like a room full of ‘jack-in-the-box’s – gas lighting, manipulation, lack of personal boundaries, abuse. And whatever redeeming qualities Patty might have as a person are only her opinions of herself, and not anybody else’s opinion of her.

Initially, when these red flags started popping up, it felt a bit awkward. It started off pretty inconcuously – something Patty would think, something someone would say. Then the frequency of such descriptions grew, and as the story progressed, I grew less uncomfortable and more fascinated – as fascinated as one could be with an unstoppable train wreck about to happen.

Another thing that I really liked about this book is how the consequences of Rose’s illness don’t magically disappear after her mother goes to jail – her hair still grows unevenly, her teeth are still brown and crooked, she finds it difficult to gain weight, her instinctive reaction to smiling is to cover her mouth, and she suffers from body image issues. She tries hard to overcome the bricks life threw at her, she tries to gain back the control that she’d lost over her own life. She isn’t perfect – she has moments where her thoughts bears uncanny resemblance to her mother’s – and she isn’t an angel rising from the ashes. She’s as human as the people who make fun of her, as the people who victimize her and as human as the people who try to help her.

What I’m really looking forward to in this story is how will things proceed. Will things go the way Patty wants them to? Does Rose intend to truly reconcile with her mother? Like I’ve mentioned before, will history repeat itself, or has Rose grown enough to be able to stand up for herself? And how far will the phrase ‘Like mother, like daughter’ prove true for this duo?

I’m really interested to find out.

First impression: Main characters are a bit on the crazy side. Relationship red flags littered everywhere. Want to see how this one turns out in the end.

My recommendation: I would recommend sticking with it for the first 7 – 8 chapters. Patty’s thinking will take some getting used to. Once the initial hiccups are overcome, the possibilities of the story should keep you engaged.

Post reading review (spoiler alert? Maybe) :

I’ve never done this for a book before. I’ve never gone back and penned down my thoughts about a book after Im done reading it, but this book was… Well…

As far as my first impression went, this book was… Interesting. I wanted to see how the story went, whether there would be reconciliation or separation or anything else that I didn’t think of. Apparently, they went down the route I didn’t think of.

I would’ve liked some redemption, not just for Patty, but for everyone who turned out to be an exemplary example of an outstanding citizen. I was waiting for someone from the cast of characters to step up and behave like an adult. But everyone was up on their high horse, and nobody seemed to want to get off – the only time someone got down from their moral high ground was when someone else pushed them off, or dragged them down.

What I did like about the book:

  • Book is written well. The narrative doesn’t drag most of the time, and gets its point across well.
  • It’s a new take on the mother-daughter relationship, and it isn’t afraid to go down twisted, darker routes.
  • Nothing is sugar-coated, and everything is completely bared for the reader to see. Anger, delusion, hatred, fear and all other themes are all explored to their fullest sense.

What didn’t I like:

  • There were discrepancies in the ending that could rip the entire fabric of the story apart.
  • The climax was shaky, and the ending could have been left out altogether.
  • There wasn’t noticeable character development for anyone except for maybe Rose Gold.
  • You don’t really get to understand the motivation behind any character’s actions – they did what they did, and that’s why they did it. Be it Patty, Rose Gold, her father, to name a few – none of their motivations make complete sense, and the lack of explanation is unsatisfactory.
  • There wasn’t anyone I wanted to cheer for, and there wasn’t much I could take away from this book.

Last impressions: The book isn’t badly written or badly paced. The climax and ending aren’t worth the 300-so pages you have to read through to get there, but if you’ve started, you might as well. If crazy, dark themes are up your ally, then you might enjoy this.

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