Wow!! I was hoping for a good read after having enjoyed The Widow so much last year but this story totally blew me away.
A skeleton of a baby was found in a garden of what is now a demolition site in Woolwich ready for the gentrification of this area of London. Kate Waters (the journalist in The Widow) spots a couple of lines about the body in the paper and decides to see if she can build a ‘human life’ story out of the sparse information.
The story is told in short punchy paragraphs following the storylines of four women at the time of the find in 2012. Kate Waters is a great investigative journalist and her narrative leads the way in mirroring one of the aspects I enjoyed so much in the author’s debut novel by feeding us peripheral information, in one instance the change in the way her job has evolved now more news is read on-line.
In 1970 Angela Irving’s baby was snatched from the maternity ward where she was born. The search for baby Alice led to a dead-end taking a detour of suspecting the story of her disappearance wasn’t exactly as presented by Angela.
Emma Simmonds works from home as a writer polishing the words of others to produce books about celebrities. Could she have a better profession to fix this book in contemporary times? Emma like Angela suffers with anxiety so working from home is ideal. Emma is married to an academic, a lovely man twenty years her senior.
And finally there is Jude, mother to Emma and the two had lived in a shared house in the area of the find. Jude and Emma have a complex and fractured relationship. Jude never revealed who Emma’s father was and although Emma picked up some hints over the years, she hasn’t ever met him.
The story is pretty much led by Kate’s narrative as she works with the new boy in the news room and this is where Fiona Barton’s experience as a journalist lends authenticity to the smallest of interactions from her kindly instructions to Joe on her craft when you can tell she wants him to get his nose out of his phone and study the wide variety of characters they come into contact with as they follow the story of a long-buried baby.
The pace is fast and while each of the three other women may cast their minds back in their narratives the overall timeline is strictly linear with each chapter indicating the day and the narrator so that the story is kept straight in the reader’s mind.
All those big questions of why, who and how are there for the asking, with many others crowding in around the edges of this tale full of buried secrets. Best of all the reader gets a different perspective from the variety of narrators and can ponder on the information provided. I did guess what had happened but that didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book one bit, after all I wanted to find out not only if I was right, but what would happen following the revelations.
This is a psychological thriller that obviously has its roots in reality, a story with the elements of life we prefer not to think about, or if we do, to file under a cliché headline. The Child takes a look behind the headlines and the result is a compulsive read.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to Random House UK for giving me a copy of The Child ahead of publication on 29 June 2017. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and the author for such an engaging read.