The Missing List – a memoir

From the back cover:

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 weaves together her father’s words, his ciné-film footage, her journal entries and scraps of childhood memory. This story of courage and resilience is unforgettable.

A tapestry of time – brightly coloured, beautifully orchestrated, emotionally pureAndrew 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. I held my breath through entire sections – this book is brave, moving and above all compassionate Sarah Salway

Finalist in the Mslexia Memoir Competition, 2015.

Order The Missing List (published September 2018) here: Linen Press. Paperback £9.99. E-book £4.99.


Read Neil Gower in The Bookseller about how he responded to The Missing List to make the cover art.

Read Clare’s interview with Catherine Smith – about writing The Missing List.

Read what Clare says about how it feels to publish this memoir on Ali Bacon’s blog.

Reviews of The Missing List:

‘Brave, beautiful and masterfully crafted… without doubt one of the best books I’ve read this year.’ Judith Kinghorn, novelist

‘Best outlines a narrative not just of horror but of survival. She emerges angry, sane, but at peace. She demonstrates that abuse can come from any quarter, that its effects are terrible and longlasting, that few withstand its ravages without great damage to themselves. But most of all she shows that secrets unspoken must yield to their saying. A brilliant, courageous, moving book.’ John O’Donoghue, Viva Lewes

‘The Missing List is an astonishing achievement. In the process of caring for her father during his terminal illness Clare Best finds herself remembering the abuse she suffered at his hands. She hopes he will acknowledge what he did so that they can both achieve some closure before he dies. The story is gradually revealed through scraps of information – old ciné films, imagined lists of rules, conversations with her father, and it is exquisitely written; beautifully observed and emotionally truthful. The depth of compassion and understanding she shows towards her abusive parent, is both astonishing and moving. I even wondered what her father would have felt if he had ever been able to read this book himself. His character in all its complexity leaps from the page – as does Clare’s own personality, as a woman and as the child she was before and after the abuse. Her story is deeply engrossing, sometimes distressing but ultimately life affirming. In this battle she is the winner, not the victim.’ A Samuelson

‘Arthur Miller, with his autobiography, Timebends: A Life, committed his life memories to the page without making chronological order of them – his explanation was that that was how our minds work. Clare Best does this too. And this is what gives the reader of her memoir a complicity in her quest.’ Alison Coles, Book Oxygen (read the full review)

‘The author’s achievement lies in involving the reader in her story to such an extent that she lifts her memoir into the wider realm of implicit questioning of how societies operate and how humans relationships develop.’ Matthew Stewart, Rogue Strands (read the full review)

‘This book took me on the most intense and emotional journey I have ever been through in a work of non-fiction. It is beautifully written… I reread numerous passages simply because they were so perfectly put together. The book is impossible to put down. But 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… uplifting and life affirming. An outstanding achievement, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.’ Toby Marchant, Goodreads.

‘Clare describes the book as “an act of compassion for my young self”. She relies on her journal, her reflections, transcribed recordings of her father’s account of his life, and his Bolex ciné-films. The result is a montage of vignettes… What beguiled me immediately was the forensic beauty of the writing. 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. The power of this book lies in its quiet determination to make sense of the unspeakable; the key to its cover lay in painting the unseeable.’ Neil Gower in The Bookseller

‘Best questions what it means to survive… Her narrative gives hope through highlighting how one can be resilient. She shows strength and perseverance, and whilst the outcome may not have been the one she wished for or felt she needed, she eventually found her ending. Rather than her father having the last word, waiting for his apology, his acknowledgement or his time to talk about it, she took control of her narrative and chose to be the one to end it. This act seems far braver in many respects, as it takes courage to step away and be the one to break the cycle, to finally say “no”.’ Isabelle Coy-Dibley, The Contemporary Small Press (read the full review)

‘I’ve just read a book I couldn’t put down, one that I think will change lives. Clare Best writes the story of her dad’s dying. She weaves together her reflections on the visits, coping with his deteriorating health as cancer takes hold, the clips from the audio he asked her to record and her transcripts of the cine film she is re-watching at home, of her childhood… She is waiting, hoping, dreading, anticipating, that now, finally, on his death bed, he will acknowledge the sustained and comprehensive sexual abuse he submitted her to… Hoping that he will say sorry, that he will acknowledge the crimes which had remained un-prosecuted, un-named, that he will explain, take ownership, take back the weight of the crimes so she no longer has to carry them. With each visit, Clare Best excavates memories and parts of herself which have remained buried with the abuse trying to find a new coherent narrative of herself that overcomes some of the trauma.’ Julie Leoni (read the full piece on her blog)

‘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 Gorrod in DURA (Dundee University Review of the Arts) (read the full review)

This book is an astonishing achievement. It is so beautifully-written, so thoughtful and precise, that the horrors of abuse strike one anew, afresh, as if hearing of them for the first time. 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. So it is incredible that 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. It is – unbelievably, given the subject matter – a light, almost poetic read. I will re-read it soon. The fragmented style brilliantly suits the subject matter, and I applaud the writer for not trying to find easy answers. Life is complicated, abusers are complex, our relationship with our parents are compromised and unbelievably difficult to unravel. But despite this, 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

The Missing List by Clare Best