Clare Best


Clare Best has been haunted all her life by dark family secrets. When she agrees to help her dying father record his memoir, she embarks on an urgent quest for the truth. Which version of their life will he tell? And how will she reclaim her own story from his?

With lyricism, forensic precision and flashes of humour, Clare Best pieces together a mosaic that combines her father’s words, his ciné-film footage, her recent journal entries and scraps of childhood memory. This story of courage and resilience is unforgettable.

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, Finalist in the Mslexia Memoir Competition, 2015

978-1-9996046-1-5  TML Paperback

978-1-9996046-2-2  TML Digital

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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

Additional information

Book Type

E-Book, Paperback


“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