Friday, 11 March 2016

My Review of "The Good Mother"





















As with all good psychological thrillers, this one opens by building intrigue and curiosity from the very first sentence. The girl in the prologue is not given a name, or an age although she is obviously a child, and she is getting into a car with someone she doesn't know very well to meet someone she knows equally little about. She has obviously done this before and while making sure Mummy isn't watching, she shows enough awareness of her actions to wonder whether Mummy would really mind about what she is doing or not. "He" seems to think she would. 

The scene is set. The reader's imagination fired up and working overtime already! Then we are left hanging as chapter one starts with the first person narrative of a new character, Susan. 

And there's no let up with tension and atmosphere here either. Susan's narrative is a frantic succession of short sentences and questions. It is a really exciting way to create a situation as the reader is as confused as Susan and joins her in a desperate attempt to make sense of what is going on. It cunningly conveys Susan's distressed state of mind and bewilderment about where she is and how she got there.

What we do realise is that Susan is being held captive. She has a daughter, Cara, who is also being held prisoner in the same building as Susan can hear her voice through a grate in the wall. But that is all. There are echoes of Donoghue's "Room" except Susan is much more agitated and appears in more immediate danger. She can't sit still. She paces. Stands up. Sits down. "Why am I here?" she repeats again and again. She is concerned only for her daughter and how they can escape. She sends Cara messages assuring her they'll survive this and telling her how much she loves her. Susan is a good mother. Bird's ability to maintain the endless stream of broken thoughts and constant questions is impressive and I don't think I've read a book where this sort of narrative voice is sustained over so many pages. 

We are also introduced to the voice from "The Other Side of the Door." This is the voice of the captor and it is anonymous and suitably mysterious. His sections only create more questions rather than offer any clarity about what's happening. This male voice is obsessed, controlling and clearly has a plan for Susan which is not going to be a good one but at the same time he feels less malevolent and there is a sense of fallibility surrounding him. 

The chapters are equally short and I lost track of the number towards the end as my eyes were too busy racing ahead to the story but it must have ranked up to well over 85. 

I must admit, although I was engaged with the story and forming a relationship and empathy with Susan, by the time I had reached 65% on my kindle I was beginning to wonder where the novel was leading and how much longer I could read the rambling stream of Susan's frenetic thoughts and dialogue. The other sections by the captor and Alice (a friend of Cara's) are also written in a similar style; sometimes I felt a little overwhelmed by the level of confusion and disorder all these voices were producing. It was getting trickier and trickier to untangle what was going on and work out who was a reliable narrator and who was distorting the truth.

Then, everything changed. 

Oh. My. Word. 

The last quarter of the book is an absolute shocker and make me realise that I had completely underestimated Bird's skill. It completely changed my entire view of the book. 

I cannot say anymore at all without spoiling it but I would suggest you get a copy - currently a ridiculous 99p on kindle in the run up to its publication on 4th April. Persist with Susan's story as the pay off is honestly worth well and truly completely worth it. I have heard many critics and reviewers tiring of the phrase "psychological thriller with a twist" as it can spoil the ride for the readers but in this case, it is an exacting description of the novel. This is a one sitting read kind of book. The kind with a twist that will have you gasping out loud. I'm sorry I ever doubted the author's ability to present me with something so thrilling and thought provoking. This book is definitely going to end up on the best sellers list and I can see it being adapted to film successfully too. 

I recommend this book for fans of psychological thrillers and popular crime fiction.

Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book ahead of publication in return for a fair and honest review. 

For recommendations, reviews and other bookish chat, please follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacUK) or sign up for email notifications of future posts

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