Anna Ge­orge The Lone Child

The Saturday Paper - - Books -

Vik­ing, 288pp, $29.99

Anna Ge­orge’s first book was the well­re­garded crime thriller What Came

Be­fore. Her new novel, The Lone Child, is less crim­i­nal and more psy­cho­log­i­cal in fo­cus, but it’s just as thrilling. It’s a story about the ef­fects of moth­er­hood and the moral choices made while un­der in­tense psy­cho­log­i­cal pres­sure.

Neve Ayres is a sin­gle ar­chi­tect who, at al­most 40, has just had her first baby,

Cliff. It’s early days, but she’s strug­gling: her would-be part­ner went back to his wife just be­fore Cliff ’s birth, and Neve is over­whelmed, ex­hausted and alone. Cliff cries all the time, and doesn’t sleep prop­erly. Neve is smart, so­phis­ti­cated and used to feel­ing more in con­trol than this. She has plenty of money and a beau­ti­ful beach house at Flin­ders, on Victoria’s coast, and while walk­ing the baby on the beach on a cold and stormy Easter week­end, she sees a small girl, Tayla, fall into deep wa­ter. Neve isn’t gra­cious about it, but she res­cues her.

Tayla’s mother, Leah, ap­pears in the dis­tance and col­lects her, but that’s not Neve’s only en­counter with the girl. A short time later, they meet again. Neve her­self has been moth­er­less since she was a small girl. Tayla now ap­pears that way also but she isn’t: Leah has been de­serted by her part­ner and is broke and home­less, liv­ing in her clapped-out car with Tayla and an­other child. She’s fright­ened to re­port Tayla miss­ing, in case her chil­dren are re­moved by the Child Pro­tec­tion Ser­vice. For Neve, the girl rep­re­sents a chance to cre­ate a proper fam­ily, and per­haps re-cre­ate the child­hood she her­self never had. She re­names her “Jessie”, but things are not what they seem.

It’s a thin story, padded by a lot of in­te­rior ex­po­si­tion and a third per­spec­tive, that of a stone­ma­son and ro­man­tic in­ter­est who comes to fix Neve’s front wall. The so­cio-eco­nomic gap be­tween Neve and

Leah is squarely mid­dle-class in its bias, but The Lone Child is a crack­ing read. Although con­tem­po­rary in set­ting, it re­minded me favourably of M.L. St­ed­man’s in­ter­na­tional best­seller, The Light Be­tween Oceans – The Lone Child is less sen­ti­men­tal. In pre­sent­ing her story from both Neve’s and Leah’s per­spec­tive, Ge­orge shows us the folly in the as­sump­tions that each woman makes about the other, and the re­sult is an emo­tional page­turner. This is clever writ­ing from a nov­el­ist with su­pe­rior tech­ni­cal skills and a keen eye on her read­ers. LS

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.