Posts Tagged ‘child’


At the start of this book, Joanna, her partner Alistair and their 9 week old son Noah are at the airport waiting to fly from Scotland to Melbourne, where Alistair is from. The trip is part holiday, part opportunity for Alistair’s mother to meet her grandson and also in large part for Alistair to make a claim for custody of his 14 year old daughter Chloe, who lives in Australia with his first wife.

After landing in Australia, Noah goes missing; thereafter the story focusses on the resulting search and investigation into what happened to him. The parents, and in particular Joanna, come under close and mainly unkind public scrutiny with people speculating on Twitter, Facebook and in blog posts as to what has happened.

The story is told mainly from Joanna’s point of view (in the third person) and in Alistair’s ex-wife Alexandra’s point of view (in the first person). Alistair and Alexandra’s marriage broke up after his affair with Joanna and she is still bitter.

I enjoyed the book a lot and read it very quickly. I was surprised that the reader is told what happens to Noah straight away – as events unfold in fact – so whereas I was expecting a mystery where I would be kept in the dark as much as the characters, in fact it was more of a study of how people react and treat each other in the face of such a tragedy.

Although I raced through the book, it wasn’t without flaws – I felt that Joanna and Alexandra were fairly well drawn, but other than that, I only got the broadest sense of the rest of the characters. Alistair was almost a caricature, and deeply unlikeable.

Overall I would say that this book was satisfying at the time, but probably won’t stick in my memory for very long after I finished it.

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This modern day fairy tale stars Ioan Gruffudd and Toni Collette as Alec and Zooey Morrison, a couple who are struggling to conceive and who are finding that it is causing problems in their marriage.  After they talk about fostering a child, a seven year old boy named Eli turns up on their doorstep, saying that the foster agency has sent him.  As he becomes a part of their family, he brings happiness back into their lives, but Eli has one final surprise for them.

This is a really lovely gem of a movie – it has no explosions, no special effects, just solid performances throughout, and lots of emotion (honestly it had me in tears a few times).  Gruffudd and Collette were terrific as a couple going through a very hard time – their pain was almost palpable.  There was a twist at the end which I feel obliged not to give away, but suffice to say that while I don’t always enjoy such twists, it fitted perfectly here.

In addition to the three leads (Maurice Cole is adorable in his debut role as Eli), there is great support from Richard E. Grant, as a mysterious man who seems to know all about the Morrisons, and Anne Reid and Hayley Mills as Zooey’s mother and the foster home manager respectively.

This seems to be a little known film, but if you get the chance to watch it, I would definitely recommend that you do!  Not only is it very moving, but at the end, I had a big smile on my face.

Year of release: 2011

Director: Jonathan Newman

Producers: Hale Coughlin, David Mutch, Alice Dawson, Deepak Nayar

Writer: Jonathan Newman

Main cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Toni Collette, Maurice Cole, Richard E. Grant

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Set in Alaska in the 1920s, this story (based on an old Russian fairy tale) is about Jack and Mabel, a couple who move to live in a farm in a remote part of Alaska, to escape their pain at not being able to have children.  One night they create the figure of a small girl out of snow, and the next morning the snow child has disappeared, but soon a young girl who looks remarkably like their creation appears in the area where they live and befriends them, so that they become almost like parents to her.

I wanted to like this book.  I really did.  People recommended it to me, and I read reviews of it prior to reading it, all of which praised the book highly.  So maybe it’s me, but…it just didn’t grab me.  The writing was really quite lovely in places, but the whole thing had an air of detachment and isolation to it – I never really felt engaged in the story.  The detachment and isolation perhaps reflects the isolated location where the story takes place (and certainly the author’s descriptions of the snowy, remote and lonely place where Jack and Mabel are evocative and atmospheric), but for me it also had the unfortunate effect of me not really caring about any of the characters one way or the other.

I did prefer the parts with Faina, the young girl who may or may not be real.  However, there was a large part in the middle of the story where she is not present, and I found that that portion dragged.  As descriptive as the passages of Jack and Mabel’s work at their farm were, it seemed all quite repetitive.  The story picked up pace in the last 100 pages or so however, and I liked that part more.

Certainly I can see the value of this story, and the eloquence in the writing, and it is understandable that so many readers seem genuinely touched by it.  But unfortunately, it just wasn’t for this reader.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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This 1941 films pairs Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, in one of three films they made together. However, whereas the other two (My Favorite Wife and The Awful Truth) are out-and-out comedies, this is more of a drama, with few laughs.

When the impulsive Roger and the more sensible Julie meet, they fall in love and get married – their happiness seems complete when Julie becomes pregnant, but tragedy strikes when Julie suffers a miscarriage. However, delight, happiness, and unexpected sorrow await the Adams, and we see them navigate their way through the joys and setbacks that life brings.

This is a strange film for me, because I really believe that Cary Grant did his best acting in this film and yet it is one of his least enjoyable films (from my point of view). The start of the film is interesting enough, where we see how Julie and Roger meet, and get together. However, after about the first 45 minutes, the film really started to drag, and although it is only a couple of hours long, it felt much longer! It was definitely what I would call a plodding film, but there is no denying that there were some genuinely touching moments. Without giving anything away, there is a scene where Roger is talking to a Judge, and this was very touching and filled with emotion. It certainly showed that there was more to Cary Grant than just the suave and charming gentleman which he played in so many of his films. Irene Dunne was also terrific, showing a real range of emotions. Also worth mentioning is Edgar Buchanan, as Applejack Carney, Roger’s friend who becomes a real support to the couple.

It’s such a shame – this film had the potential to be a gorgeous love story – and it certainly had its moments – but there were just too many scenes that added nothing to the storyline, and which slowed it down for me. I’m glad I saw it, but I won’t be rushing to watch it again. Despite showcasing the talents of both Grant and Dunne, this film just didn’t hit the mark for me.

Year of release: 1941

Director: George Stevens

Producers: George Stevens, Fred Guiol

Writers: Martha Cheavens, Morrie Ryskind

Main cast: Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Edgar Buchanan, Beulah Bondi

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Damian Baxter is ridiculously, stupendously rich.  He’s also dying and has nobody to leave his vast fortune to. However, an anonymous letter received years earlier suggests that he may have father a child many years ago, and now he wants to find that child in order to include him or her in his will.  There are a few contenders for the mother of the child, and to track her down he needs the assistance of a former friend from the late 60s when Damian spent time amongst the upper classes and the aristocracy.  The former friend is the narrator of the book, but he now harbours a strong grudge against Damian…

When I started this book I was not sure I would enjoy it.  It seemed to be populated by snobbish shallow characters who I did not think I would be able to warm to.  However, by about halfway through it had quite won me over and I simply did not want to put it down by the time I got to the ending.

As stated, the unnamed narrator is the former friend of Damian, who undertakes to find his child.  As he does so and meets up with several people who he was friends with at the time in which most of the book was set, he not only discovers secrets about Damian’s past,  but also comes to terms with events in his own.

We learn early on that the narrator is upset with Damian over an incident that occurred in Portugal years before, although the details of the incident are not revealed until nearly the end of the story.  There is also some tension over a girl with whom the narrator was clearly in love – Serena Gresham.

The book describes the search for Damian’s possible offspring, and also explains the differing fates of several of the characters.  It also gives plenty of description of upper class society in the late 1960s.  The narrator notes that the 60s for many people were not all free love and flower power, and describes debutantes’ balls and posh parties galore.  The era was explained in great detail, which I found very interesting to read about.

I ended up really liking the narrator and finding him to be a believeable character.  It was clear to see how he had mellowed and matured in the intervening years between the two periods of time which the book covers. Damian himself was not a particularly sympathetic character, but I did feel that the reader could understand him much better by the end of the book. 

Some parts of the book were very moving, and some were very funny.  The whole description of Terry Vitkov’s ball had me in fits of laughter, while another part where the narrator finds out some distressing news almost had me in tears.

I would highly recommend this book.  I now want to seek out ‘Snobs’ by the same author.

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12 year old Steven Lamb doesn’t have a lot to be happy about.  He, his brother Davey and their mother Lettie, live with Steven’s Nan.  His mother clearly favours Davey, and his nan is haunted by the loss of her own son Billy almost two decades earlier.  Billy was believed to have been a victim of serial killer Arnold Avery, who is now in prison.  Billy’s body was never found, and Steven has spent a huge amount of time digging to try and find it on Exmoor (where oher victims of Avery were buried). 

Steven thinks that if he can just find Billy’s body, his family can obtain closure and may be able to be happy again.  When his digging yields no result, he decides to write to Avery and ask where Billy is buried.  And so begins a terrifying game of cat and mouse…

This book was very gripping and hard to put down.  The narration was pacy, and switched from Steven’s point of view to that of Avery.  The chapters told from Avery’s viewpoint were disturbing, which is only to be expected as he was a paedophile and child murderer.  These parts worked particularly well in casting in creating a dark and sinister atmosphere in which the story took place.

For me, the chapters told from Steven’s point of view worked slightly less well.  I found some of his thought processes to be somewhat unrealistic for a 12 year old boy, and thought that for a child who was clearly very naive in some respects, he seemed to reason things out in a way that I would not have expected.

However, the story held my attention throughout and while I had to suspend my disbelief on occasion, I did find the book extremely readable.  The writing flowed well and drew me in completely.  My favourite parts, and the sections that were most believeable, were the scenes with Steven and his family.  These parts were upseting because they portrayed such a realistic view of a family heading towards meltdown.  Lettie has been let down by men all of her life – her childrens’ father is out of the picture, and her children are used to seeing a succession of ‘uncles’ – and she seems to love her younger son more than she loves Steven.  His nan spends all of her days looking out of the window waiting for the return of a son who is never coming back.  Steven himself is either picked on or completely ignored at school, and his one friend Lewis, takes advantage of him constantly.  It was no surprise to me to read the author’s note where she said that the book was originally going to be about a boy and his family, and the impact which a 20 year old murder had had on them, rather than a psychological thriller involving a serial killer.

Despite the minor niggles, I would certainly recommend the book, although the subject matters means that it might not appeal to everybody.  I will also be looking out for other books by this author.

I would like to thank Transworld Publishers for sending me this book to review.  Transworld Publishers’ website can be found here.)

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When Beth Parker’s estranged sister Lucy turns up on her doorstep needing a place to stay, Beth is dismayed, but she and her husband Simon allow Lucy to stop with them for a while. Tension is evident between the two sisters, and Lucy’s references to Beth’s inability to bear children only deepens the wound, and Beth ends up wishing that her sister would just go away. However, when her wish is granted in shocking fashion, a tiny part of Lucy is left behind – her baby. Heartbroken by the fact that she can never have children of her own, Beth decides that she wants her sister’s child, and she is determined that nothing will stand in the way of her getting the baby. But there are forces at work which want to make sure that she doesn’t get what she has always dreamed of.

Meantime, Beth’s psychiatrist husband Simon has a new patient to cope with at the hospital where he works – a disturbed young woman who has murdered her own children, and who seems to know too much about Simon and Beth for comfort…

I’ll start with the good points of this book. The story is fast paced, and (despite the criticisms of the book which are about to follow), I did find myself anxious to read on to see what happened, on several occasions.

There’s a good story in here somewhere, but a few things ruined my enjoyment of this book. I couldn’t engage with any of the characters at all. I don’t think it’s necessarily important to like a central character, but certainly some feeling about them should be evoked. In this case however, I found I just didn’t care about Beth, Simon or any of the other characters.

The other problem was that there seemed to be an inordinate number of explicit sex scenes in the book – in the first half especially, it felt as if they have been shoehorned into the narrative at every opportunity, necessary or otherwise (usually not necessary at all). I am not usually bothered by sex scenes, but there were so many here that it got a bit tedious. Most of them added nothing whatsoever to the story, and seemed entirely gratuitous.

Finally, the story started out apparently as a psychological horror, but seemed to change genre halfway through! This probably wouldn’t have been a problem, but it took me by surprise!

Overall then, while this had good elements, it was a bit of a disappointment.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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