Between a Mother and Her Child

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Between a Mother and Her Child (Michael Joseph) (Paperback), Elizabeth Noble, book reviewA couple of years ago I read Elizabeth Noble’s Things I Want My Daughters To Know and ever since then I have been hooked on this wonderful author. Her novels are truthful, poignant and sometimes heartbreaking, but ever so readable. I couldn’t wait to pick up her latest book – Between a Mother and Her Child and the moment I did I hardly could bring myself to put it down.

Between a Mother and Her Child tells the story of a family reeling from tragedy. Whilst travelling on his gap year, Maggie and Bill’s son, Jake, was killed by the Asian Tsunami that struck on Boxing Day, 2004. They, along with their other children, Aly and Stan, have struggled to come to terms with what has happened and with their overwhelming grief. Two years on, Bill has moved out, Aly refuses to communicate with her mum, and Stan is attending a special school. Maggie spends most of her days just existing and most of her sleepless nights cleaning. They are a dysfunctional family who seem to be sinking deeper and deeper.

Luckily there are people who care about the family and most of all, Maggie’s sister Liv. From her Australian home though there is little that she can really do to help so she looks for a practical solution. By chance, when she is visiting the family in London for Christmas, she spots a classified ad in the newspaper that she thinks could be a solution. Kate is a lonely widow, with no family to speak of, and has placed a very unusual advert:

‘Mature. Healthy, solvent lady with own house seeks room in busy family home, in exchange for cooking, light housekeeping, company and, hopefully, some childcare’.

It’s a very strange proposal but this could be exactly what Maggie needs if only Liv can get her to agree. It could be the start of this very unhappy family starting to rebuild their lives and finding a new kind of normality.

“The characters are all wonderfully real and complex.”

Between a Mother and Her Child is a beautiful book and compulsive reading. It is painful, sad but never too morose but it is definitely worth having a box of tissues nearby. It is also uplifting at times. Elizabeth Noble has captured perfectly what it is to grieve and how that grief is so often isolating rather than being unifying. She also probes as to whether there is a hierarchy of grief. Aly feels that she has to be strong for the sake of her mum, somehow thinking that her loss of her brother is not so great as Maggie’s loss of her son.

The characters are all wonderfully real and complex. Take Aly, for example, who not only feels that she has to support her mum but also feels that she is constantly being compared to her dead brother. She’s soon to take her A levels but will they be as good as Jake’s? She’s also struggling to come to terms with her father’s new girlfriend and her own blossoming relationship with Ryan, Jake’s best friend. She can’t find a way to communicate how she feels and just wants to be a normal teenager. It’s a marvelous depiction of a hormonal teenager but with the added angst of losing a brother and a family breakup.

I really can’t recommend Between a Mother and Her Child enough as it is a tremendous read from start to finish. It should of course be remembered that the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004 really did happen and that it was an international disaster of unimaginable scope. People are still suffering and rebuilding their lives and some might argue that this event should not be a backdrop for a work of fiction. However, it is treated very sensitively and not glorified in any ways. It illuminates the tragedy of being in the wrong place at the wrong time!

Between a Mother and Her Child by Elizabeth Noble
Published by Michael Joseph, February 2012
Thanks to Micheal Joseph for sending a review copy.

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Between a Mother and her Child
by Elizabeth Noble

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Written by kingfisher

My name is Jo and I have been married to Simon for nine years. We have two beautiful daughters – Rachel who is six and Natalie who is almost five and starting school in January. I also have two step children aged twenty one and seventeen so family life is never dull. I also manage to work three days for a local education authority where I support the teaching of literacy in primary schools. I love my job and it’s ideal for a book lover like me. In my spare time I run, dance and occasionally tread the boards with my local amateur dramatics group. My first love is reading though and you will never find me without a book on the go. My husband is also an avid reader and we are hoping to pass on our love of reading to our daughters. They certainly love their bedtime stories every night. Although I have and English degree and I am familiar with most of the classics, I generally read much lighter stuff these days. It’s mainly ‘chic lit’ but I also enjoy a good thriller or courtroom drama. I have so many favourite authors and this list tends to change regularly depending on what I am reading.

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