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Review: The Child

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.

Author: Fiona Barton

Series: No

Genre: Crime, Mystery

Rating: 3/5

Why you should give it a go:

Whether you liked, disliked or didn't read Fiona Barton's The Widow, you can still give The Child a go. Kate, the determined reporter returns in this second offering, but the stories are unrelated so they work as standalone novels. Also, many readers have said that they didn't like The Widow, but enjoyed The Child, so you could be pleasantly surprised by Barton's latest release even if you weren't impressed with her debut.

I personally enjoyed reading it. It was nice to see a crime story from the perspective of the characters affected, where the law enforcement took a back seat in the narrative. Barton's writing felt natural and flowing; she captured excellently the heartache, depression and loneliness that these women felt, making this novel a satisfying, character-driven experience.

*Warning: Spoilers Ahead*

The Good Bits

This isn't the most exciting book I've read lately, but it wasn't the worst either. I liked the characters; I wanted Kate to get her big story, Emma to work out her issues and Angela to find out the truth. The character based plot drew me in enough to finish to the end despite working out the truth several chapters before.

Barton's heartbreaking prose shines throughout. She captured the inescapable pain of both Emma and Angela and make it so real for the reader:

“People say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. They say that when you been through something terrible ... But it doesn't. It breaks your bones, leaving everything splintered and held together with grubby bandages and yellowing sticky tape. Creaking along the fault lines, Fragile and exhausting to hold together. Sometimes you wish it had killed you.”

Once the baby had been revealed to be Alice, I had resigned myself to an unhappy ending. The only possible silver lining I could see was that Angela would finally know the truth. So needless to say, when the truth was revealed AND Angela was reunited with her long lost daughter, I was chuffed. After a novel based on the individual pains of three women, it was satisfying to see them united in the happy conclusion.

The Bad Bits

Overall I did enjoy The Child, but I wasn't really blown away. It took me a while to get used to the multiple narratives; the beginning chapters were too short, so I didn't have enough time to familiarise myself with each character's narrative voice or setting. I struggled to distinguish between the characters, particularly Emma and Angela, which became problematic when flitting between them so often.

I think pacing in general was the issue for me. There were sections that seemed a little repetitive without much plot development, and this detracted from my overall enjoyment. In particular, there was no momentum in the final build up to the big reveal. Once it had been established that both Emma and Angela shared DNA with the baby, it became obvious to me that these two women must also be related. Yet it seemed to take a long time for the characters to catch up with the reader; surely if I could figure this out, seasoned detectives would have no issue. This was supposed to be the WOW moment of the book, and whilst the reunion between Emma and Angela was satisfying, I think it just took too long to get there. That being said, I think there were other sections, such as the reveal of Emma's story, that were excellently paced and kept me reading to find out more.

Overall Thoughts

I wasn't blown away, but I did enjoy reading The Child. It is worth giving it a go for the well-crafted prose and characterisation.

Do you disagree? Let me know in the comments below.