14/02/2012

Between a Mother and her Child (by Elizabeth Noble)


I hadn't previously come across Elizabeth Noble, but her book was available for review from The Bookbag, and looked as if it could be interesting. I wasn't entirely sure if I wanted to read about a family struck by tragedy, as the blurb describes it, but I hoped it would be positive.

'Between a Mother and her Child' is a long book. I was relieved to find that the tragedy has already taken place before the story opens, and a little surprised that it wasn't even referred to directly until several chapters into the book. It would have made more powerful reading had I not known what had caused the family to break up.

For this is a book about a shattered family who deal with grief in various ways. Bill, the father, has moved out, and has a new girlfriend. Maggie, his wife, is trying to hold together a household containing the morose and uncommunicative Aly, who is about to take her A-levels, and Stan, who has some minor special needs. Maggie's sister comes to visit; she suggests following up an advert from an older woman - Kate - who wants a family to look after. Kate turns out to be quite a catalyst...

First the good points: I liked Aly very much, and was quite taken with Kate, too. Stan was rather unnecessary to the plot, but likeable enough. The subplots weave together nicely, and the ending is hopeful. The front of the book informs me that it's 'impossible to finish without tears streaming down your face'; I did not find this to be true, although I have to admit to a few pricklings of my eyeballs and a slight lump in my throat at one or two places.

However, I really couldn't feel anything for Maggie or Bill, and much of the story is from Maggie's perspective. There are regular switches of character, which came so regularly (and sometimes rapidly) that it was hard to feel much empathy; instead I felt as if I were watching from a distance rather than being drawn into the family.

My other problem with the book is that there's too much detail about everyone's emotional state and inner thoughts, many of them already obvious from dialogue or events. This meant that the middle part drags somewhat. It took me over two weeks to read it; it was pleasant enough, but all too easy to put down and forget about after a chapter or two in the evening.

I suppose it would make good holiday reading - it's the kind of book to buy at the airport, and then leave with someone else. Recommended in a low-key kind of way, if you don't object to rather a lot of introspection.

You can also read my slightly longer review of 'Between a Mother and her Child' on the Bookbag site.

1 comment:

Catherine said...

I have loved some of Elizabeth Noble books, but have definitely found some better then others. I look forward to reading this one but will keep your comments in mind:)