Sunday, 12 May 2013

The Child's Child by Barbara Vine

The Child's Child by Barbara Vine uses the story within a story format. Grace and her brother Andrew inherit a house in London. As the terms between them are very good, they decide to share the six-bedroom house, three-bedrooms for each with a common kitchen. They do not think of the possibility that at some point one of them would like to bring their partner home to live with them and then all may not be well. Grace is working on her PhD on the portrayal of unmarried mothers in fiction. Andrew is working with the marketing department of a publishing house and suggests Grace read a manuscript of a novel based on true incidents about a single mother and homosexuality to see if it is fit for publication. This manuscript is The Child's Child. 

Meanwhile Andrew brings home his new boyfriend novelist James Derian. Grace finds him attractive and at the same time Grace does not like James views on her thesis. James believes that being a Single mother was hardly an issue in the society in past or in present whereas homosexuals were criminalised and they suffered a lot. He is not ready to listen to Grace's argument that unmarried mothers were sent off to mental institutions and their child taken away from them at birth. Grace suggests that it was probably in the 1960s both homosexuality and unmarried mothers were accepted by society- at least homosexuality was legalised in Britain. She also finds James insufferable. Grace is now tormented with thoughts that James may come to live with her brother, and make her life miserable. Turn of events make her take solace in the manuscript. 

The manuscript narrates the story of fifteen year old Maud and her older brother John set in between the two World wars era.  John decides to give up his relationship with Bert not only because it is a criminal offence and the society would never understand their relationship, but also because he feels it is a sin, and moves from London to a small village near Bristol. His fifteen year old sister finds herself pregnant and is unsure what to do. When the secrecy of her pregnancy explodes at home and her father is ready to send her away to a workhouse, and John comes up with a solution. A solution that haunts him for life, and makes his life miserable. 

The Child's Child is an interesting portrayal of how society treats those who break its norm, even one's own family, mother, father, may not be at one's side. While John accepts her and provide her a home, Maud cannot tolerate the fact that her brother is a homosexual and makes his life miserable. Is her intolerance because she is just a child? Though there is no usual hook that we find in Barabra Vine/ Ruth Rendell books here, I was interested. But half-way through I was wondering, 'Will there be a crime? Will somebody get killed?" And there is a crime and somebody dies. The events that follow lost my interest. 

I am a great fan of Ruth Rendell and books under the pseudonym Barbara Vine are more psychological and dark but they also contain an element of mystery and crime. For example, in 'A Dark-Adapted Eye', we know Vera is the killer from start, but who did she kill is not revealed for more than half of the story and there is  also another mystery  and the inevitable final twist. I like the way Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine drops hints and creates suspense and hooks us. 

There is no mystery or the final twists or the suspense hook, ' what is going to happen now' element in this book, which was very disappointing to me. As a study of taboos in society in the past and present, it is interesting but as a mystery novel, as a Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine fan, I find this book disappointing. 

No comments: