"The Daughter of Lady Macbeth" by Ajay Close has a raw, desperate quality which strikes at the very heart of human frailty. It follows the lives of mother and daughter, Lilias and Freya, and charts their relationship with one another over their lifetimes. Lilias is an actress at the end of her career. Once a beautiful woman, she still retains the driven nature that made her so successful, but the secrets she carries, and which she refuses to share with her daughter, have nurtured life-long resentment and animosity between the pair. Freya is approaching 40 and she and her husband Frankie are desperate for a child. Little do they know, when they sign on at a fertility clinic in Perthshire, that Freya's stay in the area will finally expose some of the secrets that Lilias has tried so hard to keep hidden for so long, and rock their own relationship to its very core.
We follow Lilias's life in the early seventies, when, as a rising star, she falls pregnant to a man who promises her the world and yet leaves her with nothing. The child she has, Freya, she resents, and whilst Lilias returns to her former life, Freya's childhood is spent in a constant state of flux and uncertainty. As an adult Freya seeks a more stable life for herself with the dependable Frankie, whilst all the time searching for her father, the missing piece of herself. She is thwarted by a series of false trails laid down by a mother who has no intention of ever letting her know who he is. This does little to heal the rift between them and when Lilias finally reaches out to Freya, the younger woman finds it hard to be the daughter her mother needs. Meantime, the weeks that Freya must spend away from her husband whilst she undertakes the fertility treatment sees her questioning and reassessing her priorities. She develops an easy relationship with Kit, twenty years younger, who also grew up without a father and whose wife is attending the same clinic and this inevitably leads to tension in her marriage.
"The Daughter of Lady Macbeth" is beautifully written and hugely evocative. The interplay between the main characters produces a series of superb cameos at pivotal times in their lives, that leave the reader asking "What would I have done if I was in their shoes?" It is as if the dark undertones and secrecy that have surrounded Lilias's life are being played out again by her daughter, and yet she does not know it. There are numerous times when the behaviour and actions of the pair are reminiscent of the character Vianne Rocher in Joanne Harris's wonderful novel "Chocolat" and this is a story where, as you approach the end, there is no certainty about how it will be resolved, and whether the resolution will be a satisfactory one for those involved. But one thing is certain, if you choose to read "The Daughter of Lady Macbeth", you will not fail to be moved by it.