Review Blog

May 14 2020

Little disasters by Sarah Vaughan

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Simon and Schuster, 2020. ISBN: 9781471194900
(Ages: Senior secondary/Adult) Recommended. Sarah Vaughan's latest book deals with issues which are familiar to anyone who has been or is a parent. It is only a matter of degree as to the effects parenting has on the family. A group of friends who met at antenatal classes seem on the surface to be successful, financially and socially, but all harbour secrets and their veneer of contentment hides self doubt to varying extents.
Jess and Liz's contact has lessened recently. Liz has a demanding job as a paediatrician in a London NHS hospital, her shifts and rosters mean she has little time for her friends and at times even for her own young family. While Jess is a stay-at-home mother who has recently given birth to her third child, she seems to all who know her to be the perfect mother. Her home is always ordered. When she entertains all is considered, thoughtful and beautifully presented. She is a wonderful mother, successfully dealing with her second child Frankie who is demanding and hyperactive.
However Jess is not coping - she is finding her baby Betsey difficult. She finds herself caught up in a regime of cleaning, sterilising, tidying and ensuring her home is a safe place. All at the expense of emotional support not only of Betsey but her other children. Her husband Ed has always left the child rearing to her and spends much of his time at work and lately has avoided coming home to where he increasingly feels an outsider.
Alarm bells ring when Betsey is admitted to hospital and Liz is on duty. Betsey has a fractured skull and protocols demand police and social services are called. Suspicions are roused and Liz finds herself in a precarious position. She cannot believe that her friend would ever harm her baby, but also feels Jess is not telling the whole truth about the circumstances of her baby's injury.
The incident triggers Liz's own childhood memories of her mother, a distant cold figure struggling with two children while running a cafe. The treatment of her brother's serious burn injury has always been cause for distress. These thoughts come into focus when her mother's health begins to fail and she confides a long held secret to her.
The truth about Betsey's injury eventually comes out. There are guilty feelings by those close to Jess, who were unable to see she was not coping. Even after Betsey's hospitalisation it takes some time before it is recognised that Jess is in need of mental health support.
Little disasters highlights the need for support for parenting. There are always doubts when trying to deal with children and how unprepared we are to cope with childrearing. Especially when expectations around children and their development are highlighted in the media. Many parents may be worried that they are perceived as failures or inadequate in comparison to their peers. This story highlights the difference between reality and perception and makes a plea for greater understanding for all parents. Themes: Crime fiction, Parenting, Friendship.
Mark Knight

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