The Recovery of Rose Gold is an unusual story because it begins with the aftermath of a crime, rather than the crime itself. Patty Watts is about to be released from prison, to return to live with Rose Gold, the daughter she abused.
Patty was convicted of Munchhausen’s by proxy and sentenced to five years for the crime. She had effectively slowly poisoned Rose Gold and made her ill for most of her childhood. Eventually she withdrew Rose Gold from school so she was even more isolated. Patty was a former nursing assistant who enjoyed the attention of medical professionals.
Given this backstory, it might seem surprising that Rose Gold has agreed to have her mother back home with her and her new baby. The narrative follows the points of view of the two women as they deal with their new life and the shifting balance of power between them.
Despite her traumatic past, Rose Gold has made many positive changes. She has a job and has saved up enough money to buy a home for her and the baby. When Patty is released, she realises that Rose Gold’s new house is actually her childhood home, one where she experienced her own nightmares.
The voices of the two characters are compelling and the story is very readable. You want to learn what has happened to each of them, how they have been changed by their experiences. Clearly you hope that Rose Gold has made a recovery and is moving on from her traumatic past, while fearing that her mother will continue to manipulate her.
Rose Gold and Patty both have a nice line in humour and observation. Patty has an easy charm which is disconcerting to the reader, but it demonstrates why she was able to get away with her crimes for so long, and persuade seasoned professionals and well-meaning neighbours that her daughter’s illnesses were genuine.
Elements of Rose Gold’s story are cleverly withheld. Who is the father of her baby? What is the truth about the online friend who finally enabled her to escape her mother’s influence? Will she be able to stand up to her mother now?
There is a tension in the story between psychological realism and the more melodramatic elements. In particular there are frequent references to the basement and Patty’s fear of it, which have a touch of ‘something in the woodshed’ about them. You feel that the story could go either way. The ending wasn’t quite what I’d hoped, but that’s probably just me. It’s a very readable story with two distinctive voices and a perceptive examination of the relationship between a deeply damaged mother and her daughter.
This book is published as Darling Rose Gold in the United States.
I received a copy of The Recovery of Rose Gold from the publisher via Netgalley.
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