All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Six Minutes by Petronella McGovern

on July 22, 2019

Six Minutes 
Petronella McGovern
Allen & Unwin
2019, 432p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

How can a child disappear from under the care of four playgroup mums?

One Thursday morning, Lexie Parker dashes to the shop for biscuits, leaving Bella in the safe care of the other mums in the playgroup.

Six minutes later, Bella is gone.

Police and media descend on the tiny village of Merrigang on the edge of Canberra. Locals unite to search the dense bushland. But as the investigation continues, relationships start to fracture, online hate messages target Lexie, and the community is engulfed by fear.

Is Bella’s disappearance connected to the angry protests at Parliament House? What secrets are the parents hiding? And why does a local teacher keep a photo of Bella in his lounge-room?

What happened in those six minutes and where is Bella?

The clock is ticking…

This gripping novel will keep you guessing to the very last twist.

It’s every parent’s worse nightmare. I lost one of my kids once. We were at Sea World on the Gold Coast, waiting for the dolphin show to open so we could go in and sit down. I was sitting in the shade (I was pregnant, I’d been walking all day) and my husband was sitting across on the other side of the road/path, in the sun. Our 2yo was going between us, from one to the other. He left me to go to my husband, I answered a text and when I looked up, he wasn’t with my husband. We found him in literally under a minute – but for just that minute I felt completely sick. In terms of kids wandering off, it’s very benign and we were lucky someone turned him around wandering down the road and brought him back to where they could see us looking. My heart was racing, my husband and I bickered over who was at fault and all this happened in a minute. I can’t imagine the strain of having a child missing for hours, for days, for weeks. The toll it must take on parents is incredible.

Lexie is a bit of a helicopter mother – she hardly ever lets daughter Bella out of her sight but one day at playgroup she has to go and get a pack of biscuits from the nearby supermarket. Bella doesn’t want to leave playing to go with her so Lexie convinces herself it’ll be fine. She’ll only be gone a few minutes (which she counts in her head). But when she returns to the playground, accessible by a child-proof gate, Bella is no where to be seen.

It’s a small town outside of Canberra and Lexie wasn’t gone long at all. Everyone is alerted very swiftly and the search begins. She can’t have gone far, she’s only four years old. As the people spread out to search, there’s no sign of Bella. With every minute, hour and day that passes, Lexie and her husband unravel a little more. Their past is dipped into, secrets come to the surface. And the tight knit playgroup is tested with accusations, betrayals and their own secrets.

So this was an intense read! The kind that keeps you riveted from the first page, right through to the end. I had to put it down to go pick my kids up from school and I couldn’t wait to get back to it. It’s about much more than just a child going missing in a seemingly impossible way, it’s also about relationships, trial by media, the pressure to ‘have it all’ and how what we see on the outside isn’t what’s going on behind closed doors. As the hours tick by and the first night begins to fall on Bella’s disappearance, the media is brought in as a way to get the word out and get people checking their backyards in the local area, having a look in case she’s hiding somewhere. The use of press releases, facebook posts etc in the narrative definitely helped flesh out the story and show the way in which people can jump to conclusions and post anything they want online without really much fear of consequence. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and it’s something we’re seeing right up to the highest levels (the President of the United States of America, anyone?). ‘Keyboard warriors’ who use online as an excuse to say things they wouldn’t in person or deliberate trolls who enjoy stirring online pots, discussions and comments on so many public posts turn into nothing more than ridiculous spats more often than not – how often do you think to yourself ‘never read the comments’? There are people who devote their lives to this – recently I came across a twitter account that attacked a person I see on TV relentlessly, abusing her and claiming to know for sure that the TV star’s marriage was nothing other than a contract for TV and every time she mentioned her husband or posted a photo of them, the abuse escalated. It’s basically all the twitter account is – adoration for the husband that they believe isn’t a husband and abuse for the wife for something that either isn’t true and if it is (and I’ve no idea who some random on the internet would know that) is the woman anymore at fault than the man? Presumably they would’ve both entered a contract to appear married. But all the vitriol was reserved for the woman for ‘corrupting’ the man into a fake marriage and ruining his life. Weird. This all comes into play even more as something from Lexie and her husband’s past is revealed, stirring up a bit of an online frenzy. To paraphrase – to lose one is unfortunate, to lose two looks like carelessness. But there’s always more to the story.

The twists and turns in this were really well done and the cast of characters fleshed out very well. My mothers group never stuck when my oldest was born and I never joined a playgroup or anything like that but I understand how it can feel sometimes, to look at someone else and feel resentment at how easy everything is for them. The thing is, what we show publicly isn’t necessarily what’s going on behind the scenes either and then when something isn’t perfect, I’ve seen people be barely able to contain their glee about it. And I think there’s an element of that in this. The narrative changes. Lexie goes from almost never leaving Bella to leaving her ‘all the time’ and things get rewritten. In the end there were so many possibilities and suspects that I had no idea what had happened and must’ve changed my mind so many times about what I thought had probably happened. I enjoyed the slow way the author built tension, introduced new aspects of the story and wove these things together, giving you more scenarios and possibilities. And I thought the conclusion was well done and surprising but in a good way.


Book #109 of 2019

Six Minutes is book #50 for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019

One response to “Review: Six Minutes by Petronella McGovern

  1. Great Review, I thought this was a an enjoyable thriller too.

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