Fiona Barton: The Child
Published By: Bantam Press
Buy It: here
What the Blurb Says:
When a paragraph in an evening newspaper reveals a decades-old tragedy, most readers barely give it a glance. But for three strangers it’s impossible to ignore.
For one woman, it’s a reminder of the worst thing that ever happened to her.
For another, it reveals the dangerous possibility that her darkest secret is about to be discovered.
And for the third, a journalist, it’s the first clue in a hunt to uncover the truth.
The Child’s story will be told.
What I say:
“Angela looked at her hollow-eyed, the initial euphoria of getting the news draining away rapidly. “My baby is dead” she said.
I had read Fiona Barton’s previous novel, The Widow and loved it (you can buy it here), as it was a very cleverly plotted and intriguing novel.
When I saw that Fiona had written a second novel called The Child, I wondered whether it could live up to the excellence of The Widow. It does, and in my opinion is even better.
The Child is a story of three women, and how a seemingly under reported minor story about the discovery of a baby’s body on a building site not only eventually brings them together, but for two of them, blows apart the seemingly stable lives they have been leading up to this point.
For Emma and Angela, the story has huge personal significance, as it brings up extreme emotions in them both, and a need for them to determine the identity of the child that has been found. Quite simply, they both believe that the body which has been found is their child. For Kate, a newspaper reporter, it is a chance for her to investigate a substantial and human led story in a world of online celebrity click bait reporting.
Fiona’s writing from the outset is always fast paced, thoughtful and intriguing. One of the many strengths of this novel is that I genuinely could not work out why the discovery of the baby’s body was so important to Emma and Angela. In my blog notes, I have lots of question marks next to my theories (only one of which was correct!), and I loved the notion that as a reader you are with these women on their journey to discover the truth about the baby and why the body should be where it was.
As the novel progresses, we learn about Emma’s difficult relationship with Jude, her mother, and how the appearance of Will, Jude’s new boyfriend, means that Emma’s home life leaves her feeling increasingly isolated and unhappy. Emma’s sudden disappearance from her home, means that the complicated relationship she has with Jude reaches breaking point and does not really recover. Jude refuses to believe that Will could in any way be responsible for Emma leaving, as she is so in love with him and the notion of being in love. We learn later in the novel. that Emma had faced giving birth alone and in secret, and had not been able to tell her mother anything about her pregnancy, the traumatic birth of her stillborn baby and certainly not who the father was.
As we switch between the women’s stories, we discover that Angela had a baby who went missing from her hospital bedside after she had given birth, and no trace was ever found. I found it really interesting and quite upsetting to see how Angela is treated in the time after her baby is taken, as if she is almost overreacting to the enormity of her ordeal. Angela is convinced that the body of the baby who has been found is her missing daughter.
While Angela is looking for closure, to know if the baby at the building site is hers, Kate is more and more driven to be the reporter that solves the case. I did initially question Kate’s motives for getting so involved, as she is so determined to find out what has happened becoming blinkered to everything else. I wondered whether she was trying to further her career in the male dominated newspaper world and that her interest in the case is determined by the glory she believes will get for solving it. However, as the novel progresses, we can see the more human side of Kate and how she genuinely wants to help Angela and Emma find the answers they so desperately crave.
Fiona’s depiction of the three main female characters are brilliant and you really care what happens to them. They are all interesting, three dimensional women to whom you can really relate, and following them on their search for the truth just became more and more intriguing. Reading this book was always an absolute pleasure, as the plot and dialogue fizzed off the pages.
So, who is The Child and how are Angela and Emma linked to her? Well, I could tell you, but that would spoil the massive twists in this novel, and being loyal to the author, I am not going to! Suffice it to say, I had no clue what the twists were going to be – they were very cleverly done, completely plausible and it often made me go back through the book to see how I missed them! Just when you thought all the secrets had been revealed, another skeleton would slide out of the closet and appear in front of you, and the resolution was never far fetched or ridiculous, it just slotted another piece into the ever growing puzzle of the novel.
The Child is a really remarkable and unforgettable novel, to say it is simply a psychological thriller does not do it justice, but it also raises really relevant issues in a poignant and powerful way. It addresses what it means to be a mother, how women are regarded in the home and in the workplace, and how when women work together and support each other, they are stronger than they could ever know.
I loved this book, and I hope you do too.