Review published on October 16, 2017.
Look, I’m just a poor, innocent reader, okay? I really don’t deserve to be treated like this. Cassandra Parkin, how could you? How could you write such a book as this and lure me in with your elegant prose and sympathetic understanding of all conditions human. How did you develop such flawed yet human characters and make me feel what they are feeling? How could you construct such a compelling narrative with such a heart wrenching plot… and yet deliver those twists?
Forget all the other missing child stories you have read, for this one displaces them most emphatically. Possibly, because for all that it is a missing child mystery, it is also a multi-layered tale that invites the reader to do some serious thinking.
This is a cleverly constructed novel with some interesting and subtle chronology. I don’t want to spoil the story, so I’ll say no more on that. For the most part, it is character driven. We are offered Susannah’s first person narrative and entries from her blog that describe her married life with John, their child Joel, his subsequent unresolved disappearance and the role of the police. All of which raise so many issues about love, parenting, relationships under strain, and so well written you feel like you are experiencing them for yourself. It’s harrowingly real. Reduce the novel down to its barest bones and I guess it’s about love and what it can do.
But parallel with the main thrust of the book are sub-issues regarding spiritualism, clairvoyance and mediumship specifically, tantalisingly and covertly on the fence as to whether it’s a realm populated purely by charlatans or… maybe not? As for the effects of trauma on an individual, it’s so well done here it’s possibly the closest you can get to experiencing some of that, sometimes, irrational emotion and potential descent into mental illness. It is also about friendships and the roles people play in friendships. But it remains a choice for the reader. You can accept it all simply as part of the story or you can allow yourself to become absorbed by the wider aspects of the writing.
I will admit that towards the conclusion of the book I did realise what had happened, but it was a gradual realisation liberally peppered with disbelief. We Need To Talk About Kevin kept popping into my head uninvited, but its possibly the construction that elicited that rather nefarious comparison. This book is a compelling piece of contemporary writing that should satisfy the existing fans of Cassandra Parkin and earn her some new ones, including myself. Regrettably, I’ve not read any other books by her, which is something I intend to rectify sooner rather than later.
Gill Chedgey 5/5
The Winter’s Child by Cassandra Parkin
Legend Press 9781785079030 pbk Sep 2017