About this book
A brave and beautiful memoir about one woman’s determined mission to expose family secrets and lies.
When Clare Best agrees to help her dying father record the story of his life, she knows time is running out. Will he finally reveal the truth before he dies?
Written as a patchwork of flashbacks, journal entries, descriptions of old ciné-film footage and idiosyncratic lists, the narrative has the drive and intrigue of a thriller.
About the author
Clare Best decided when she was six that she wanted to be a writer. Along the way she worked as a fine bookbinder, a bookseller and an editor. She writes poetry as well as prose and often collaborates with visual artists. Clare has presented her acclaimed autobiographical project Self-portrait without Breasts across the UK and Ireland and in the USA and Canada. She has held writing residencies in settings as various as Woodlands Organic Farm, HMP Shepton Mallet and the University of Brighton. Her work has won prizes, Arts Council England awards and an Authors’ Foundation grant from the Society of Authors. She lives near the Suffolk coast with her husband and their whippet.
Cover art by Neil Gower
“A tapestry of time – brightly coloured, beautifully orchestrated, emotionally pure.”– Andrew O’Hagan
“Memoir at its finest. Such raw beauty in the writing, and generosity in sharing how important it is to take back our own truth, even when it hurts. This book is brave, moving and above all, compassionate – I held my breath through entire sections.” – Sarah Salway
“The whole thing is composed with the ear of a poet and the eye of a detective but, crucially, never the voice of a victim.” – Neil Gower, The Bookseller. Read the full review here →
“…most of all it is the courage and compassion shown in writing so cleanly and honestly about a subject as taboo as child abuse that makes this book exceptional.” – Toby Marchant, Goodreads. Read the full review here →
“A brilliant, courageous, moving book.” – John O’Donoghue, Viva Lewes, October 2018 issue. Read the full review here →
“While The Missing List is a memoir, dealing with events past, the truthfulness of Clare Best’s thoughts on every page creates an intense feeling of the present. – Alison Coles, bookoxygen. Read the full review here →
“…an assured poet knows how to capture a scene via a layering effect, building up seemingly insignificant details until they explode into meaning. Clare Best manages just such an effect in many scenes throughout The Missing List.” – Matthew Stewart, Rogue Strands, 27.09.18. Read the full review here →
“Brave, beautiful and masterfully crafted… without doubt one of the best books I’ve read this year.” – Judith Kinghorn,novelist. Read the full review here →
“Best approaches her experiences with both bravery and sensitivity. She is careful to keep control of her narrative, making sure that it remains her story. There is always a fine line between saying what is comfortable to voice and saying too much, where the story no longer remains the author’s to tell, yet Best treads this line carefully, never detailing the abuse too explicitly and ensuring that what she tells the reader is what she has chosen to share. It is hers, and she is finally the one who can own it after all these years.”
– Isabelle Coy-Dibley, The Contemporary Small Press. Read the full review here →
“There are few accounts of the abuse itself in The Missing List. Best prefers to tell of the effects of abuse rather than dwelling on specific acts. That reticence coupled with her eloquence somehow invokes the horror more palpably than any lurid detail. What comes across powerfully in Best’s understated narrative … is the astonishing fact that, somehow, her emotional development has not been completely destroyed, and that she now has a supportive family of her own. This is a memoir that is a tribute to its author; her honest telling of her incredibly brave, and ultimately therapeutic journey into her past.”
– Jenny Garrod, DURA. Read the full review here→
“The skilful structure and delicate use of language enable her to explore the very painful territory of child abuse without drama or self pity. A really important book.” – Catherine, Amazon review.
“This book should be read by all survivors, by mental health professionals and by anyone seeking to read the very best in life writing. Actually, everyone should read this book, from those in the last stages of schooling onwards, in order to observe the sheer damage done by sexual abuse, and the amazing courage of those who make it through (many don’t).” – Paul Valentine, Amazon review.
“I read it in two chunks, often with my heart in mouth, hardly daring to turn the page. However, the book is ultimately life affirming as Clare has chosen to survive her ordeal and has used her exceptional talent for writing to help make sense of this great unspoken taboo.” – Toby Marchant, Goodreads review.
“Her story is deeply engrossing, sometimes distressing but ultimately life affirming. In this battle she is the winner, not the victim.” – A.Samuelson, Amazon review.
“An astonishing achievement… beautifully-written, thoughtful and precise. We have heard and read so much about child abuse that we run the risk of becoming numbed and hardened to the appalling realities of it. Clare Best has, in this quiet, unusual, devastating memoir, found a way to make us remember exactly how we felt, the very first time we discovered that there are some people who abuse their children.
If this makes it sound hard-going, think again. This book is a complete page-turner. I read it in two sittings, and was desperate to get back to it in between times… I applaud the writer for not trying to find easy answers. Life is complicated, abusers are complex, our relationships with our parents are difficult to unravel. To speak one’s truth, to say, this is what happened and this is how I feel about it, is the greatest power the abused person has. Bearing witness is what this book does, absolutely brilliantly.” – Beth Miller, novelist
“You will read this extraordinarily courageous and humane book in one sitting but wonder at the lifetime’s forbearance and incredible generosity of patience that went into writing it. The quest for love is far more valuable than the gift of redemption.” -Eleanor Knight
“I couldn’t stop reading The Missing List. Although the abuse Clare Best describes is difficult to read, she limits these descriptive passages so the reader does not feel voyeuristic. Each brief description is such a shock within a narrative concerned with reconstructing childhood and family. So much is unknown, so much has been blocked out. But in a tragic parallel, Best’s own attempts to recall her childhood story are set against her father’s dying need to tell his – to Best. I was astounded by each of her visits to him and then drawn into the tension that these encounters cause. Importantly, aside from its value to other people who have been abused, the Missing List is beautifully written, which is a major achievement given the subject. Best has balanced the story-telling so finely – it is incredibly tense throughout, but this is always offset by her honesty, by a fragment of beauty, by a questioning of memory. The power of her grandmother’s house in Bexhill within the story is immensely sad. A letter behind a mirror is a strange and compelling symbol. The first incident of abuse Best describes so graphically is mirrored at the end, where Best delivers another powerful reminder (if we needed one) of what it means to be a child – the power imbalance here is shown so starkly. And the silence of the other participants in this scene resonates back through the book to the beginning. There are so many hints and suggestions that mirror memory and Best chills the reader with descriptions of morphine peeling back her father’s hidden layers. How Best found a way through the awful consequences of what her father did to her is a testament to her strength. I know I will be thinking about this book for a long time.” -Jackie Wills, poet and author
“Given the pain and trauma Clare Best experienced and which she describes so vividly in The Missing List, it may seem strange to say that the work is fresh, beautiful and nourishing – but Best writes a pathway through her suffering, and her clarity of thought and skill as a writer illuminate the way. Courage and thoughtful ethics shine through on every page, creating a lucid account of working towards recovery. – Lyn Thomas
“This is an incredible book, full of heartbreaking bravery and the most razor-sharp poetic insights – I read it in two days, it’s so compelling.” -Nick Tigg
“This is one of the most challenging books I have read in many years, and it would have been even more challenging to review it, were it not for its elegance, sincerity and subtle but commanding presence. It is a beautiful, clear and precise memoir about a very dark, ugly and murky subject: child abuse of the most horrific kind, at the hands of her own father. The author reflects with the distance of more than 50 years, that ‘part of me was lost, and another part became the searcher and onlooker, listener, interpreter. I am the seer, and I’m the hearer of voices.’ Best has given the book a clearly defined, analytical structure, perhaps a safety rope to see her through writing it, or a red line that leads out of a maze of scrambled remembering and reliving parts of her childhood: Transcripts of conversations with the abuser – close to his death – recollections of places and fragments of memories are intercut with descriptions of short home movies (ciné films) shot by the abuser. They add an eerie audio-visual element to the memoir and throw the memories of what Best experienced into even sharper relief. The afterword includes a list of charges against Best’s father. It is a clinically detailed fact sheet of physical and emotional abuse, a necessary part of reclaiming a stolen childhood. – Review of The Missing List by Alexandra Loske
for The Frogmore Papers no 93, March 2019