Michele is a successful business woman with a troubled private life. She has a high-powered job, a family, a husband, yet she is defined by a term of possession: she is ‘Clara’s daughter’. Nameless. When Michele moves her mother into the basement, her husband slams the door and disappears into the night. Michele increasingly hides away upstairs, as Clara weaves her conspiracies beneath.
Clara’s Daughter begins in terraced houses and city parks of North London but develops, through sharp-edged monologues and surreal visions, into a primeval stand-off between mother and daughter. Eventually, Clara – the controlling matriarch – finds a way to release her daughter. But can Michele release herself?
Meike Ziervogel is a master of suspenseful storytelling. In Clara’s clandestine power games and Michele’s increasingly fraught dealings with both her mother and her own highly-strung sister, Hilary, there emerges a chilling, yet poignant family tableau. Devastating in its psychological insights, Clara’s Daughter reveals unnerving truths about relationship anxieties on many levels, which emerge not only from Ziervogel’s elegant, succinct descriptions, but build steadily from the tense, silent spaces between the unfolding of main events. A divinely-crafted, almost cinematic novella, Clara’s Daughter is at once startling, moving and intensely enduring.
‘From the author of Magda, an incisive dissection of matriarchal power-play set in the leafy suburbs of North London. Ziervogel evokes the age-old mother-daughter struggle – cast in contemporary role anxieties. Is Michele destined to be mother, wife, high-powered business woman or merely ‘Clara's Daughter’? A moving read for our times.’ —Morag Charlwood, Shoreham Wordfest
‘A taut and compelling drama about the place of the elderly in family life and about how, in one way or another, it's the destiny of the old to be hidden away. It’s also about how much a marriage can take, and what it eventually boils down to – clothes in bin liners. I enjoyed Clara's Daughter hugely; in this novella length story Meike Ziervogel has achieved a lot with, relatively speaking, a little. Reading it was like watching a very good play.’ —Isabel Wolff, Sunday Times bestselling author of ‘Ghostwritten’
‘A quietly devastating book about the disintegration of a marriage. Moving the mother into the basement and then having the backwards and forwards structure creating a sense of the will-she-won't-she move in and detonate like a bomb down there or merely sit and rot like a huge dark fish while the marriage falls apart above is a stroke of genius.’ —Natalie Young, author of ‘Season to Taste’
‘Meike Ziervogel is becoming one of the most interesting figures in the contemporary British and European world, not just because she is a publisher of imagination and daring, but a writer of grace, forensic precision, and power. Rarely has someone given so much from sheer enthusiasm, and talent, and been so worth watching.’ —Nicholas Lezard
‘Ziervogel is the brave woman who set up Peirene Press five years ago … Her own debut novel displays similar nerve … This is an ambitious and queasily unsettling novel.’ —DAVID MILLS, The Sunday Times
‘This frank, disturbing novel is an intriguing mix of fact and fiction and pulls no punches. The author sets out to use the story to examine the psychological theory that unloved daughters destroy the people they love and then themselves … Ziervogel explores this disturbing theory with haunting originality and real flair.’ —CHRISTENA APPLEYARD, The Daily Mail
‘This is an intelligent, acute and horrifically intense book. It didn't so much take my breath away as make me gasp for air.’ —SAM JORDISON, The Observer
‘The deftly arranged sequence of scenes gradually reveals the fears and needs of each protagonist and their relationships with each other, outlined with a careful, thoughtful style that creates an unusual atmosphere of charged bleakness. Strange, but oddly impressive.’ —HARRY RITCHIE, Daily Mail
‘Ziervogel’s prose is generally superb, with true flair and an originality that is rare when confronting such an everyday subject.’ —ROISIN O'CONNOR, Independent on Sunday
‘Stark and acutely observed realism... The result is visceral, bleak and moving.’ —CLAIRE KOHDA HAZELTON, Guardian
‘Clara’s Daughter is a devastating tale of our times… beautifully written, compelling and emotionally intelligent, it is a masterful achievement and represents the work of an author with a deep understanding of the frailty of human nature.’ —PAM NORFOLK, Lancashire Evening Post
‘This searching, beautifully written novel gets to the heart of woman's attempts to step out of the role of her mother's daughter, and make sense of the person she has become. Terrific.’ —KATE SAUNDERS, The Times
‘At a striking pace, the narrative switches between the perspectives of different characters, and the sense of emotional disconnect between them becomes ever more visceral and claustrophobic.’ —ANNA SAVVA, The Lady