It's more than four months old, but it's still worth reading...
Sunday, December 27, 2009
The Wrong Mother, by Sophie Hannah
I've been hearing about Sophie Hannah from a couple of different directions lately--first, hot ticket novelist Tana French has mentioned recently that she is on French's own shortlist, and secondly, Martin Edwards has written a good piece on her over on his blog, Do You Write Under Your Own Name?. Then Penguin was kind enough to send me an unsolicited copy of The Wrong Mother and I was off and running.
I am not going to delve into the twists and turns of this complex and very absorbing crime novel, other than to say that it starts off in the voice of a mother of young children who has an upsetting encounter with her child minder, and not too long after, finds herself pushed into the path of a bus, apparently deliberately. What I will say is that it is no accident that the novel starts off with a dilemma about childcare, career and the mothering of young children. There is not just one mother facing this situation of trying to be a good mother and still holding on to an interesting career despite the demands, there are several.
In fact, you might say that The Wrong Mother is an exercise in refracting the same basic situation through several different lenses. The care of self versus the love of one's children plays out in various ways. One question that I was left with was more general, though. When we complain about the people and situations in our lives, how seriously do we mean this and how seriously do we expect others to take us?
Although ultimately I found some of the resolution of this story a little unsatisfying, it does fit within the conventions of crime fiction, and I have to say that I was reading compulsively all the way through and the main puzzle of the story was not one I saw through till quite close to the end. I'm eager to read more of Hannah's work, and though I think mothers with small children would find much to relate to here, I am not sure they could read this book with equanimity.