A compelling and moving novel set in London about the pain of being separated from the children you love.
Amanda is a high-flying management consultant with a loving and eccentric husband. Kate is her new baby and Sarah her mysterious nanny. And Alice is the child who lives by the river on the other side of London and who has recently developed a taste for fairy tales because everyone, in the end, gets exactly what they deserve.
As the novel moves towards its unexpected and shocking finale, the story wittily explores the dilemmas and sexual temptations of new parenthood and the zestful power of apparently vulnerable babies and children.
What I Thought:
Having been published originally in the the early 1990s, it’s incredibly interesting to read these novels through the lens of our current society as so much remains relevant but it’s disappointing to see how much has remained the same, as I am in my forties, from a time when I was just becoming a teenager.
For instance, the central part of Amanda’s story is the conflict between motherhood and career which is certainly something that women still agonise over today. Regardless of the willingness of fathers to do their fair share of childcare (something incidentally that IS a big difference from the novel) the duty and the guilt still falls primarily on mothers.
On the other side of this most modern of dilemmas, you have Sarah who has – in an almost Victorian fashion – been completely cut off from her daughter by a cheating husband who wants revenge for Sarah daring to leave him. He doesn’t especially care for the child, Alice, but if it hurts Sarah, he will damn well keep hold of her.
Alice is a beautifully written character; despite not hearing from her mummy, she is so convinced that she will be coming for her that she keeps a suitcase packed and ready to go. She adores the fairytales that Sarah used to read to her, and when her situation looks hopeless, she takes things into her own hands – in an absolutely shocking fashion.
As I said, this is my favourite of Sally Emerson’s books so far as, despite the very human, domestic dilemmas in the story, it’s so deliciously dark! Under every seemingly innocent interaction, there’s something lurking, keeping you on tenterhooks and keeping those pages turning. Very much like the fairytales that are so childlike on the surface, there is often a murky undercurrent.
One thing I love more than a great book, is a great book that is being given a new life and Quartet are certainly on to something by introducing this fantastic book to a new audience – highly recommended from me…
Separation is published by Quartet Books.
Please note: I was sent this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.