3 May 2009

Book Review: The Cradle Snatcher by Tess Stimson

Clare Elias is happily married to Marc, a banker. She runs a successful chain of florists across London and loves their luxury lifestyle.

However, their lives change dramatically when Clare gets pregnant and gives birth to twins, Rowan and Poppy. Clare struggles to cope with her babies and employs nanny Jenna to help out at home. The two strike up an unlikely friendship which Clare's husband begins to resent.

Clare realises that something is awry with her family life, and soon relies on Jenna more than she can imagine when things take a serious and shocking turn.

Rating: 5/5

The book has a nice purple cover which really does scream 'chick-lit' at you but this book is a lot deeper and more serious than its cover or indeed its blurb suggests. From the title, I expected this book to be about adultery and more focussed on Clare's marriage, but its clear that Stimson has chosen this title carefully so as not to give a clue to her readers about the story within. The writing style in the book is brilliant and immediately draws you in, so much so that you can't put it down because you just want to find out what happens next. Everything about this book makes it very readable, and the two main female characters were one of the main reasons.

I wasn't keen on Clare at the beginning. She seemed to be so set on her career and her children were a bit of an inconvenience to her. But Stimson really turned around that character for me very quickly and I soon began to sympathise with her. Clare had a traumatic birth and this is further shown when Stimson writes about Clare's different feelings to her 2 children because one was able to stay with Clare and the other was miles away in a Special Care Baby Unit. As a mum of a SCBU baby myself, I could relate to the feeling in the book and thought this was so well done. More serious elements of motherhood are covered, and they can become quite disturbing but its all done well in the context of the book. It certainly isn't light reading but that is what made it so compulsive to me. Clare is a lot more complicated than we first realise and that boded well for the development of the story.

Jenna is the other lead female, and is Clare's nanny. She's a very likeable person, bubbly and fun to read but its clear there is something going on behind the scenes which is hinted at throughout but takes a while to come to fruition.
It was bubbling under the main story during the book and this was great because it kept me guessing about Jenna all the way through. The depths of the female characters were very good, and so well written, its clear the author has really thought about these women before writing a story around them. Other characters include Clare's brother Xan, a character with a shocking secret, her mother Davina and Cooper, a customer at Clare's shop who knows as much about flowers as Clare does, and intrigues Clare from the off.

The thing I really loved about this book is the way Stimson has written it. She has used the first person to tell the story, but the narrator alternates at each chapter and the tone and pace changes accordingly. It wasn't hard to tell who was narrating and this really allowed me to get fully involved in the story. One thing I loved about this was the over-lapping Stimson uses. For example, she showed an argument between Clare and Marc from Clare's narration, and at the next chapter, the same thing is told from Jenna's viewpoint and carries the story on another tangent. It made it fun to read and keeps you updated on all areas of the story. Letters and emails etc were also used between the chapters to hint at things to come and these were fun to read and decipher as well.

This is intelligent chick-lit and totally absorbing. The book covers lots of issues from marital woes to post natal depression to domestic violence, so it isn't one for the light-hearted reader. But Stimson weaves a wonderful story which is very deep, extremely interesting and just a brilliant read. There is a lot of information about flowers and their meanings dotted throughout, and it was interesting to learn the origins of flower names and their real meanings. Clare and Jenna are fascinating characters, but the supporting characters are just as good; Xan in particularl had me hooked. Apparently several characters from this book appeared in her earlier stories, so I am quite eager to read those now and find out more about those people... a good idea of Stimson's! Lots of twists, turn and shocks...a brilliant read, and highly recommended.

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