All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Lone Child by Anna George

on July 27, 2017

The Lone Child
Anna George
Penguin Books AUS
2017, 265p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Neve Ayres has always been so careful. Since her mother’s death when Neve was seven, she’s learned to look after herself and to keep her cards close. But now her deliberately constructed world has collapsed: her partner’s left her when she was eight months pregnant. And so, alone with her newborn son, she’s retreated to her cliff-top holiday house in coastal Flinders.

There, another child comes into her life. 

The first time Neve sees Jessie, the small girl is playing on an empty stretch of beach. On the cold autumn day, she is bare-legged and alone, while her mother is distracted by her own troubles. At once, almost despite herself, Neve is intrigued and concerned, and Jessie is drawn to Neve’s kindness – and to her home. 

To Neve’s surprise, Jessie becomes an unlikely source of much needed care for her and her baby. Having been lost in the sleepless haze of new motherhood, Neve is touched, and finds herself grappling with how to best help the forgotten girl. She has the spacious house, the full pantry, the resources . . . But how much can you – should you – do for a stranger’s child?

Hmmm.

This is an interesting book but I have mixed feelings about it.

Neve is a new mother. Her baby son Cliff is only nine weeks old and things have not been easy. Her former partner left her in the last month of her pregnancy, her family are distant and her friends are mostly without children. Neve is using her father’s coastal house to try and establish herself at this parenting thing and hopefully come to terms with how she feels about being a mother.

Parenting any newborn is hard, doing it on your own with zero support is even harder. Cliff is not sleeping well and Neve’s hopes of feeding for an hour and then sleeping for three are fast becoming dashed. Instead she finds herself feeding constantly and struggling to piece together more than a few moments of sleep. She is also struggling emotionally, not really feeling connected to her baby or with being a parent at all. A lot of people speak of the instant bond they have with their baby, the immediate rush of overwhelming love but it isn’t like that for everyone. It’s not uncommon for some people to feel detachment or even resentment, for the small being that has interrupted their lives so thoroughly and is either permanently attached to some part of your anatomy or screaming to be.  Neve at times does seem to be blindly going through the motions – she doesn’t even refer to the baby by his name in the narrative until a scene in the book where someone asks her what the baby’s name is. In fact Neve shows more interest in the young girl she sees on the beach, perhaps because she’s alone and then Neve ends up having to save her but it’s something that she feels more connected to than her own son. Later on, when she discovers the child near her home and invites her in, she’s incensed at the child being neglected.

Neve snaps to judge “Jessie’s” mother (Leah) from their first interaction and it’s admittedly true that their first two encounters aren’t positive. However the narrative unfolds to share Leah’s story as well and reads as almost a gentle warning against those immediate judgements based perhaps on someone’s appearance and possessions (or lack thereof). I actually found Leah’s story far more engaging than Neve’s struggles to bond with her son in her immaculate piece of modern real estate overlooking the beach and I wanted to know more about Leah’s life. It had come to such a desperate point and she needed support and praise because she was doing the best she could in an utterly bleak situation and still it was not enough, for her or her kids. With threats of services hanging over her head, Leah is in a panic and makes several quite terrible mistakes.

Neve’s state of mind is questionable at the time – she’s sleep deprived and possibly depressed, struggling to cope. She doesn’t seem particularly attached to anything or anyone. Even talking about the ex who left her she seems more annoyed that now she’s on her own rather than grieving a loss of a relationship. She does seem to latch on to “Jessie” quite quickly and there’s a bit of almost woo-woo about Jessie being almost some sort of baby whisperer that magically calms Cliff. Neve is so uneven in her behaviour that it even causes people to question whether or not Jessie even exists, after she confides in someone – almost to the point where Neve herself begins to question it. I think this could’ve been a really good thread if it had been run with a little longer, to the point where everyone was questioning it but it’s over and done with very quickly and the reader knows Jessie is real because they also read the point of view of her mother searching for her. So it serves little point in the narrative other than for someone to interfere by bringing in someone else and for the both of them to begin making decisions for Neve, which I found a bit arrogant.

If this is to be psychological suspense I can honestly say that I found the suspense part lacking and therefore it left me with a bit of “is that it?” at the end of the book. I was expecting a more dramatic conclusion I think, perhaps a longer and more drawn out type of suspense. However it just seemed to be over quite quickly and left me feeling a bit like I was missing a final chapter. But then again, that’s my personal preferences coming in to play perhaps. I’m not a big fan of abrupt endings which don’t address certain things or give you answers you’ve been looking for for the past 200 pages.

However I liked the exploration of motherhood and the ways in which women can be judged on their mothering skills, even by other women. Other mothers.

7/10

Book #126 of 2017

The Lone Child is book #41 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

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2 responses to “Review: The Lone Child by Anna George

  1. A 7/10 is a sold read. However, with the amount of books I have waiting in my TBR and TBP piles, I need 10/10s!

  2. Jason Furze says:

    Thanks for the review.
    You do have a lot of spoilers through the review that you should pre warn readers about.

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