Michelle Cameron’s name is associated with the most abhorrent of crimes. A child who lured a younger child away from her parents and to her death, she is known as the black girl who murdered a little white girl; evil incarnate according to the media. As the book opens, she has done her time, and has been released as a young woman with a new identity to start her life again.
When another shocking death occurs, Michelle is the first in the frame. Brought into the police station to answer questions around a suspicious death, it is only a matter of time until the press find out who she is now and where she lives and set about destroying her all over again.
Natalie Tyler is the officer brought in to investigate the murder. A black detective constable, she has been ostracised from her family and often feels she is in the wrong job. But when she meets Michelle, she feels a complicated need to protect her, whatever she might have done.
The Gosling Girl is a moving, powerful account of systemic, institutional and internalised racism, and of how the marginalised fight back. It delves into the psychological after-effects of a crime committed in childhood, exploring intersections between race and class as Michelle’s story is co- opted and controlled by those around her. Jacqueline writes with a cool restraint and The Gosling Girl is a raw and powerful novel that will stay with the reader long after they have turned the last page.
The premise of this book centres around the character Michelle Cameron who at the age of 10 was convicted of killing 4 year old Kerry Gosling. From that day forward Michelle was given the name The Gosling Girl by the media. Now at the age of 21 Michelle now has been released from her incarceration under the identity of Samantha. Samantha has no identity or past and the people she interacts with have no idea what she did or who she really is. When she bumps into Lucy, who was also at the same young offender’s institution, Samantha starts seeing her as a friend and a reminder of the old days. When Lucy is found dead, Michelle is hauled in by the police as a suspect. However, when Michelle’s new identity and location is leaked to the media the world’s eyes once again turn to Michelle Cameron ‘The Gosling Girl’. When DC Natalie Tyler is assigned to investigate the murder she finds herself conflicted between investigating the murder and protecting Michelle.
I have been looking forward to reading this book since I read the synopsis. This was a well written and well researched book. It was a bit slow to begin with but I think that added more atmosphere and context to the story. It’s a story that you can’t rush. My first impression of Michelle was that although what she did or was alleged to have done was that she was very naïve. She’s clearly institutionalised and knows nothing of the world outside. She’s inexperienced, immature and her growth has been stunted due to spending the majority of her life in an institution. When sees Lucy it’s like having some normality and familiarity in her life. Although she’s an adult, her thought process is very much that of a child and effectively she is a child trapped in an adult body. She is always scared with heightened anxiety that she will be found out by members of the public and the consequences if her true identity is revealed.
One of the prominent themes within the book that appears over and over again is racism. This is included in people’s thoughts, feelings and some of the comments that are made that in some instance hide a racist connotation. Both Michelle and Natalie are the subject of racist taunts and comments. In Michelle’s case it’s the way that she’s portrayed after the killing of Kerry. Especially when more information comes to light Carrie comes to light as the story unfolds that Michelle wasn’t the only one present at the time. There was someone else present of a different race that may have played a prominent role in Kerry’s death who was investigated but no charges pursued. It makes you question how Michelle would have been treated by the criminal justice system and the media had she not been black. In Natalie’s case she has to deal with being part of an organisation where institutional racism exists. The comments she faces from her colleagues are awful as is the way she is generally treated i.e. if you don’t look like your colleagues you don’t belong.
What I found really interesting about this book was that it didn’t go into detail about what actually happened when Kerry died but the reader is given a small glimpse as to what did happen through Michelle’s narrative. At the same time the narrative is from the perspective of Michelle who at the time was a child herself and ultimately it is left to the reader’s imagination as to what did transpire and who was involved.
This was a brilliant psychological thriller which I would highly recommend to everyone. It’s one story that I kept thinking about even after I had put the book down. As for the ending it was both shocking and thought provoking. It wasn’t an ending that I saw coming or could have predicted.
This was definitely a haunting read for me and the authors done an amazing job.
Jacqueline was born and raised in London. Her father was Jamaican and her mother was English and she comes from a family of writers. She hated the pressure to conform at school and left early, so she did her degrees as a mature student and moved to Manchester to take up a full-time teaching post at Manchester Metropolitan University. She lectured in English for many years, specialising in postcolonial literatures. She also taught creative writing at MMU’s Writing School. She is particularly interested in exploring racial identities and the ways in which those who are marginalised find
strategies for fighting back. She is now a full-time writer and has produced fiction for adults and children.