2 March 2012
Book Review: Between A Mother and Her Child by Elizabeth Noble
One impulsive wedding later and with the arrival of three perfect children, Jake, Aly and Stan, the Barrett family seem to have it all. Until the day their world stops turning.
When Jake dies suddenly, they're swept away on a tide of grief that fractures Maggie and Bill's marriage. She and the children are left clinging to the wreckage of their family. And they need help, because in her grief Maggie is in danger of losing Aly and Stan too.
Enter Kate, housekeeper, companion and shoulder to cry on. She's here to pick up the pieces and fix what isn't completely broken. But can Maggie trust Kate? And why is Kate so keen to help?
When Bill falls for another woman, Maggie realizes she will have to fight to put her family back together - but will they still want her?"
I have been a fan of Elizabeth Noble's books for years, and really look forward her new releases. They're always really emotional books and more often than not make me cry, as Noble has such a realistic way of writing that draws you into the story of her characters. This is Noble's first book for 2 years, and although I'm not overly keen on the book cover which is a bit wishy-washy for my liking, I thought that the story sounded like a strong and emotive one, albeit quite long at almost 500 pages. However, once I was immersed in the tale of Bill, Maggie and their children, I didn't want to stop as I needed to find out how things would end for them all. Noble has once again come up with a wonderful novel, and here's why.
Some people may find this book hard to read because it deals with the death of a child in the family. If you've experienced anything like this yourself, you may want to stay away from this book. Bill and Maggie's son was killed on his gap year while travelling around the world, in the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. Since then, their marriage has fallen apart, and they are leading separate lives. Also, their now teenage daughter Aly is struggling with her exams, and living up to her brother's reputation. The only one seemingly unaffected is youngest son Stan. However, when a new housekeeper Kate starts living with Maggie and the children, she begins to see life in a new light, and wonders how she can help Kate too. As the book deals with the theme of death, it isn't an overly happy read but one that you are very much drawn into and you end up really feeling for these characters.
Maggie is a woman that mothers up and down the land will be able to sympathise with. No-one ever wants to deal with losing a child, it isn't natural or normal, so Maggie struggles to deal with her grief, and this threatens her relationships with the rest of her family too. As a mum myself, I couldn't imagine what pain Maggie was going through, and it was hard to read her struggling sometimes. Bill, Jake's father, coped in a very different way, and I liked that Noble showed how we all cope differently with grief, Bill trying to do something positive out of something so tragic. His moving on with another woman was quite an interesting storyline too, I wanted to dislike him for it but at the same time understood his need to carry on with his life and not make it a waste, as much for himself as for Jake's memory. I thought Noble portrayed confused teenager Aly's story really well too, from her school exam stress, to her worry of living up to her dead brother's memory and school excellence. The characters were all realistic people dealing with a horrible situation, and I think a lot of readers will certainly warm to them.
The book has parts set in Australia, which I really loved and think it makes such a nice change, and brightened up the novel somewhat. Maggie is an Australian character, and her sister Olivia comes over for a part of the novel, and when she returns, the book flits back with her a little bit too. We also go over with Maggie and the children for a family occasion, and I loved reading how Maggie changed back to her old self away from England and the painful memories of what happened there. I thought it was an important part of the book and found these scenes much happier and easier to read than the others, and thought they provided a great contrast. The inclusion of the character of Kate just added another dimension to the book as you're also wondering what her story is, and I loved how Noble manages to bring about change for the main characters through Kate's tale too.
Overall, while this was an upsetting and emotional read in parts, I feel like Noble has done a great job in sensitively covering a difficult topic and making it somewhat accessible to all readers. The grief of Bill and Maggie is covered well, showing how different people deal with their pain and how it can affect those around you too. Yes, I did find it very sad and yes, some scenes regarding Jake's death were difficult to read but overall the book was really good and I enjoyed reading it very much. If you're a fan of Elizabeth Noble's previous books, then I think you will certainly like this one too. It isn't for people who are deeply affected by topics like this, but otherwise I would definitely recommend it, although be prepared to be taken on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster with Bill and Maggie! Recommended.
You can buy Between A Mother and Her Child as a paperback or a Kindle book now.