herald

Monday 25 September 2017

Tragedy shrouds living timebomb

Laura Elliot, isn't that?

June Considine, using a nom de plume. She's literary star Dermot Bolger's big sister and a journo with 14 novels under her belt, so the Laura Elliot business is a baffler.

a Maddy story?

Not really. Susanne Dowling is always pregnant, but always miscarries, until she's crazy with grief. So she does a crazy thing.

Aha.

Aha indeed. Supermodel Carla Kelly is blooming, about to launch her Anticipations collection of designer clothes for the designer pregnancy.

And her designer baby too?

And Susanne covets that baby. She kidnaps little Isobel and passes her off as her own child, with considerable finesse.

But . . . but . . .

You'd imagine it would be hard -- doctors, schools, vaccinations, DNA, identity tracking. But Susanne homeschools Isobel -- now called Joy, and brings her up until she's a . . .

No! No! Not that!

Yes! A . . . a . . . I can't say it, a . . . teenager. Full of puss-faced rage and, well, normality. Perhaps the only thing worse than having a teenager is being one. Joy is now a big sulk.

But she never suspects?

Why would she? Meanwhile in both her families -- the known and the real -- life goes on. Carla never stops looking for the lost baby. Joy is a living timebomb, a Rhesus-positive child with two Rhesus-negative parents.

What a stonking great story!

It is! But it would have benefited from cutting -- it's not tight enough for the gripping tale it's telling.

How's it told?

Jodi Picoult style, in the voices of the various characters in succession, and in emails and letters.

I smell a film.

Me too. The great thing is that you don't expect what happens: tragedy that comes out of the demand for secrecy, then further tragedy because of Joy's refusal to believe the truth when it's revealed.

Worth buying?

Take it on holiday because it's going to take a while to read.

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