Book Review: Give Me the Child

In these more enlightened times, and despite being more socially acceptable and better recognised, mental illness has a habit of sticking to a person, long after the episode has ended.  The cloying scent of dubious mental health surrounds people, particularly women, and becomes an easy 'explanation' for anything else that may go wrong, or any actions that others might not like. So finds the protagonist of Give Me the Child.

Caitlin Lupo is a highly-qualified psychologist specialising in disturbed children, who has at home her own happy daughter and seemingly devoted work-from-home 'house husband'.  But she has made mistakes in the past, and suffered a period of psychosis during her first pregnancy, so whenever things go wrong or she questions the status quo now, it is all too easy to blame her fragile mental health.  But how much of what unfolds is in her own mind, how much has she taken out of context, and how much is real?

When Ruby Winter, a child who has lost her mother suddenly and needs somewhere to live, arrives in the middle of the night, it seems like Caitlin's whole world has fallen apart.  But could Ruby also be the answer to her deep desire for another child?  Or could she lead to the destruction of the family, and the daughter, Cat already has?

With her research telling her there is no such thing as evil, and her history telling her she is paranoid, Cat doesn't know whether to believe her own thoughts or what everyone else is telling her. Surrounded by racial tension, a long hot summer leading to gang wars and riots around her, Cat must race against time to save the family she has, and her own sanity.

I must admit I found this novel a little hard to get into initially, but after the first couple of chapters the story flowed well and was engaging.  As with Girl on a Train, a character central to the plot appears briefly then vanishes without anyone noticing, which seems like rather lazy writing; and like many novels these days, there are errors of spelling and grammar and word omissions (where are the proof readers?!), but these are minor criticisms.

Impressive research characterises the novel, although I found the 'twists' rather obvious, and wondered if more time on central plotting and better combining the various threads might have been a more productive use of time.  However, it is an interesting debate on the parts nature and nurture play in turning children 'bad', a highly charged thriller, and a good page turner. Give Me the Child would be a great holiday read.

If you enjoyed Girl on a Train or Gone Girl, this is the novel for you.

It raises many questions, such as can any of us truly know another person, can we trust what people tell us, and can we even trust ourselves.  Is anything in life just as it seems?

Give Me the Child is released by Harper Collins on 27th July, RRP £12.99

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