I’m sure I have mentioned before that I love to read books set in places that I visit but sometimes reading about familiar places does more than just enhance your reading pleasure. In fact, in the case of Linda Green’s latest novel, it completely freaked me out at points. Of course, as I shall explain, that is down to my own experiences as much as it is the story itself.
The plot, in brief, concerns a busy young mum who loses her child while playing hide and seek in a local park. Every parent’s worst nightmare is explored in detail – the anger, disbelief and panic when realisation hits; the actions of the police, the public and the press; the false alarms and the sleepless nights. Interestingly, and this could be a spoiler but it becomes apparant a short way into the book, that in a Columbo-like way we see the story both from the point of view of the missing girl’s family and from that of the person who has her.
The book explores the way families work – real families in a very real world. Everyone is there – parents, children, grandparents and even the in-laws – and we see the parent-child relationship from both sides (and at many ages from pre-school to adult). What make it stand out among psychological thrillers, currently a hugely popular genre, in that what keeps you gripped isn’t action, violence or perversion but characters who are painfully real, with realistic flaws and fears.
So. Where does my experience come into it? Not from experience of motherhood or loss – I don’t have any children – but from the setting. This book is set in Halifax, a town I frequently walk to from my home on a day off, and, more specifically, the key events take place in and around a local park which I know really well. I have visited the park, the butterfly house and even the ice-cream van and I could envisage the setting for so many of the events in the novel. Of course, this should just be interesting to me as a familiar place but I do get a hint of something darker. The child in this story is a bright, forthright four year old looking forward to her first day of school – and I can’t help but think of the child of good friends who I have spent happy hours with in this particular park. She’s four. And looking forward to starting school…This is a book which can make a non-parent really understand what motherhood can be like.