By Ekta R. Garg
June 28, 2017
Rated: Bookmark it! / 4 stars
A journalist begins to investigate what her gut tells her is an important story. As she looks into the death of an infant, she finds out that the truth is far more complicated and shocking than anyone could have imagined. British author Fiona Barton brings back a character from her first book to headline her second novel in the thought-provoking story of The Child.
It’s 2012, and reporter Kate Waters has hit a lull in her work. Everyone seems to be talking about the upcoming London Olympics, but Kate wants to work on something different. When she runs across a tiny blurb in a newspaper about the skeleton of a baby found in a neighborhood slated for demolition and rebuilding, she gets a tingling sensation. Kate loves nothing more than taking a seemingly innocuous piece of information and chasing down the story behind it.
Emma spends her days managing her emotions and cleaning up the manuscripts of ghostwriters who tackle minor British celebrities. She finds herself circling back to trauma from earlier in her life, but she can’t approach it with shoulders squared and head held high. Instead she cowers in the face of her experience, sharing stealthy glances with it on her good days. On her bad days, she doesn’t look at anything. After she reads the bit about the remains of the baby, Emma wonders whether she’ll only have bad days from now on.
Angela does her best to forget about her kidnapped baby, but the child’s spirit hovers over her shoulder in the most unsettling ways. Even though she now has two other children, she can’t forget about the little one who made her a mother for the first time. It’s inevitable, on hearing about the infant skeleton, that hope starts to flutter in her chest. More than anything, she’s just wanted to know what happened to her little girl.
Kate’s investigation brings her to both Emma and Angela, for different reasons and in different capacities. Her instinct keeps pestering her to follow leads, even the ones that come across as half-baked, much to the chagrin of her editor who just wishes she would get on with a “real” story. Despite being saddled with a new intern who sees the world with digital eyes first, Kate refuses to get sidelined. As she chips away at the truth, however, even she isn’t prepared for what she discovers.
Author Fiona Barton drew in the world with her debut novel about a woman hiding the secrets of a man accused of a horrific crime, and after the positive response to journalist Kate Waters in the first book Barton decided to make Kate the star of The Child. In Kate Barton finds a plucky protagonist, the kind readers will cling to as she makes her way through the facts and the confusion. Choosing Kate as the main character proves to be a smart move on Barton’s part. Readers will get to spend time in Kate’s world without feeling like they’re treading well-worn ground from Barton’s first book.
Despite the ultimate tragedy of a dead baby, Barton manages to infuse her story with trademark British wit. The one-liners offer relief in the midst of a sad book, but, really, readers won’t mind this brand of sad at all. Barton shows that in a world where monsters exist, heroes and heroines also stand tall to fight against evil forces.
The multi-layered novel seems to be Barton’s writing approach of choice, and it works on every single level. She doesn’t leave a single question unanswered, but she also doesn’t make readers feel like everything has been wrapped up with a neat bow. Life is messy; so is the reality these characters live in. Barton captures both with satisfying precision.
I recommend readers Bookmark The Child.
(I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)