11 April 2013

Book Review: Dear Thing by Julie Cohen

"Claire and Ben are the perfect couple. But behind the glossy façade, they've been desperately trying - and failing - to have a baby for years. Now, the stress and feelings of loss are taking their toll on their marriage. Claire's ready to give up hope and get on with her life, but Ben is not. And then Ben's best friend, Romily, offers to conceive via artificial insemination and carry the baby for them.

Romily acts in good faith, believing it will be easy to be a surrogate. She's already a single mother, and has no desire for any more children. Except that being pregnant with Ben's child stirs up all sorts of emotions in her, including one she's kept hidden for a very long time: Ben's the only man she's ever loved.

Two mothers-and one baby who belongs to both of them, and which only one of them can keep."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Dear Thing as a hardback or an eBook now.

Every so often, there is a book that captures your attention and makes you so excited to read it that everything else goes out of the window once it arrives. That was certainly the case for me and Julie Cohen's brand new novel, Dear Thing. Yes, I had loved her 2012 release The Summer of Living Dangerously, but it wasn't even that which made me so keen to read this new book. I had just really loved the synopsis of this, and the idea of it really drew me in, because I couldn't fathom how one woman could offer to do such an amazing thing for another woman, then take it away again at the last minute. I had an idea this book wouldn't be an easy read, and I was right, but my God was it a truly great one.

Married couple Claire and Ben have it all - all except children that is. They've been trying for many years to have their own baby, but sadly things have never happened for them. After a final failed attempt at IVF, Claire decides she has had enough and accepts her life without children in it, despite her pain. When Ben's best friend Romily hears of this, she immediately offers to be a surrogate for them, carrying a baby to term for them and then handing it over once it's born. But Romily has secretly been in love with Ben for years and years. Being pregnant with Ben's baby suddenly brings all her feelings flooding back to the surface, and she's unsure she can go through with the plan. Claire is desperate to have this baby, sure it's only chance to raise her husband's child. What will happen to the baby with 2 mothers who are both desperate to have it?

As you can tell just from the synopsis of the book, it's a quite controversial topic and one that is sure to stir up a lot of emotion in people, both good and bad towards the characters, in particular Romily. Cohen opens the book with Claire and Ben, telling us a bit about their history and letting the reader straight away understand their pain in not being able to have children, and how it is affecting them as a couple. As a mum myself, it's hard to understand the pain of someone who can't have children, but you can't help but sympathise with Claire and Ben, and the extreme efforts they go to conceive themselves. In fact, this only makes what Romily does all the more worse I think! Claire is written so well, she has changed her life in order to be a mum, and I felt desperately sorry for her, and you can understand why she is ready to give up her hopes - she simply can't take the pain and sadness anymore. Cohen doesn't shy away from making Ben's pain and upset just as real too - often the dad-to-be can be forgotten in all the sadness, but he is just as sad as Claire that he can't be a father.

Romily is Ben's best friend, and I found her character very interesting to read about. She has her own daughter Posie, but the pair have a very peculiar relationship. Posie calls her Romily, not mum, and Romily admits she isn't overly maternal, preferring her insects to her daughter at times - she struggles with simply remembering to pay for her daughter's lunch. She seems to make the decision to have a baby for Claire and Ben seemingly too easily and follows it through without thinking of the real consequences of it, and I really did dislike her at points. You can understand her hurting because of her love for Ben, and her desperation to keep the baby is quite sad, you do feel sorry for her, but at the same time, knowing how much Claire wants and can't have a baby, I couldn't make peace with what Romily wanted.

I'm sure there are going to be so many different viewpoints about this book, and I can't wait to hear about what other people think once the book has been read and have had a chance to think the ideas through. Cohen's writing is brilliant - she is able to dive right into the mind's of the main three characters, and provoke such strong reaction from her readers about them. I, for example, liked Ben a lot but wished he would grow a backbone and see things from Claire's side about Romily. He does seem a bit naive but again it's understandable given the circumstances. You're left in limbo right up until the end wondering what decision Romily is going to make, and it did feel like an emotional rollercoaster of a read! The story jumps about between Romily and Claire's stories, but it's so easy to follow and just a joy to read and devour!

This is simply one of the best books I have read so far this year, and I am sure it is one which will stay with me for a long, long time, and I know I will be reading it again too. Dear Thing isn't afraid to dive into the harsh realities of surrogacy, and how everyone involved suffers through the pain of the decisions that can be made, and how nothing is ever as straight-forward as it seems. Despite the fact there is only a few characters through the whole book, it is so intrinsically focused on these characters you don't need anymore - you only want to read about Romily, Ben and Claire and to hope for a happy ending for everyone involved. Cohen's writing was simply brilliant and allowed me to devour the book at such a pace, I just couldn't put it down once I started reading. I hope everyone enjoys this book as much as I have, it's brilliant and I can't recommend it highly enough. Grab a copy of Dear Thing right now, you won't regret it!

1 comment:

  1. LOVE your review Chloe :) And I completely agree - it was such a BRILLIANT book and even now I'm still thinking about it!

    Megan xxxxxxxxxx