I was already a fan of Australian, Wendy James’s writing before this book, her ability to take such a wide variety of subjects from historical fiction at the turn of the twentieth century in Out of the Silence to a married woman’s downfall when past mistakes come to haunt her in The Mistake, amazed me. In The Golden Child there is no looking back, this is life in the twenty-first century a world where social media has transformed the life of those growing up with it.
Beth Mahonny is an Australian national living in the US because of her husband’s job, she hasn’t been back to live permanently since her daughters were born and unable to work under US rules, she blogs. She was quite a revolutionary when she started but by the time the book opens the world of blogging is now far more cut-throat than the light-hearted posts Liz writes on her ex-pat lifestyle but she has her followers who either gee her up or put her down.
One of my favourite parts of this book were the different commenters comments – their personalities shining through and could be taken as a random selection from any social media posts across the world and genres. It is so nice when the authors add the little touches into their books!
Beth is mother to Lucy and Charlotte, loving wife and now in charge of the project to move the family from the US back to Australia, and back to the bosom of the Mahonny family. Still Beth throws herself into the task with gusto and the reader an observe the gap between the reality of the move and the peek behind the curtain that she gives her followers. The girls get into a prestigious school and it is there that Beth meets Andi Pennington mother to a baby and older daughter, Sophie a brilliant musician who is in Charlotte’s class. But Charlotte at just twelve is positioning herself to be one of the shiny popular girls, and Sophie has no friends in school. Any relationship born out of the friendship of their mothers doesn’t change that and Charlotte isn’t moved to transfer any of the commonality they find out of school into the classroom. And then disturbing content is posted on social media and Sophie takes an overdose.
This is the type of story that will make any parent of adolescents run cold, a book that shows that in the bid to find their place in life can ruin a life forever. The shiny popular girls needing to hold their position in life, their victims trying to ignore the spitefulness all creates a powder keg that goes home with them at night in these days of the internet.
There are a lot of interesting debates around all sorts of aspects of mothering. These questions and their lack of solid answers I suspect will be eternal although it is interesting to view the different many ways even here that relative strangers can have their say which I guess just underlines the need for parents to somehow learn and teach their children how to cope with the pressure of social media.
This was a fascinating read and one where I felt empathy for most of the characters but the problem always with such ‘issue’ books is that I feel that in the need to create a story that perhaps the characters are somewhat side-lined and become a little stereotypical; it is no surprise that Sophie is fat for instance, but that aside I think this raises a lot of questions and would certainly make for a lively book club read.