#BookReview Dear Child by Romy Hausmann trans. by Jamie Bulloch @Flatironbooks

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Dear Child by Romy Hausmann, translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch. My thanks to Claire at Flatiron Books for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my digital review copy via NetGalley. Dear Child will be published in the U.S. on 6th October 2020 by Flatiron and is available for pre-order now. It was published in the UK by Quercus on 13th May 2020 and is available in hardcover, ebook and audiobook format.

Dear Child Romy HausmannAbout the Book

A windowless shack in the woods. A dash to safety. But when a woman finally escapes her captor, the end of the story is only the beginning of her nightmare.

She says her name is Lena. Lena, who disappeared without a trace 14 years prior. She fits the profile. She has the distinctive scar. But her family swears that she isn’t their Lena.

The little girl who escaped the woods with her knows things she isn’t sharing and Lena’s devastated father is trying to piece together details that don’t quite fit. Lena is desperate to begin again but something tells her that her tormentor still wants to get back what belongs to him…and that she may not be able to truly escape until the whole truth about what happened in the woods finally emerges.

Format: eARC (352 pages)                           Publisher (US): Flatiron Books
Publication date (US): 6th October 2020 Genre: Thriller

Find Dear Child on Goodreads

Pre-order/Purchase links*
Amazon.com | Amazon UK | Hive (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience not as part of an affiliate programme

My Review

Told from a number of different points of view, Dear Child is a twisty, suspenseful page-turner that it’s well nigh impossible to say much about without spoiling the experience for potential readers. It features many of the elements you expect to find in the psychological thriller genre whilst still seeming fresh and original. This is especially the case with one of the narrators whose voice combines innocence and a slightly chilling precision.

The storyline encompasses abduction, imprisonment and coercive control but the author chooses to major on the psychological impact of their experiences on those involved. For example, the strains on the relationship of husband and wife, Matthias and Karin, caused by the disappearance of their daughter Lena many years ago. It’s not just the despair they endure at not knowing what happened to her, or the false hopes that come to nothing but the effect of press intrusion and speculation.

Dear Child is one of those books where you can try to work out the final destination or just sit back and experience the literary equivalent of a mystery ride. In the end, I chose the latter and for a lot of the time I could identify with one of the characters who observes, “I try to arrange the pieces, but the meaning defeats me“. But, as with a jigsaw, there’s always a sense of satisfaction when the final piece is put in place.

In three words: Dark, intense, suspenseful

Try something similar: The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl

Follow this blog via Bloglovin

Romy HausmannAbout the Author

Romy Hausmann was born in East Germany in 1981. At the age of twenty-four she became chief editor at a film production company in Munich. Since the birth of her son she has been working as a freelancer in television.

Dear Child is her thriller debut. Romy lives with her family in a remote house in the woods near Stuttgart. (Photo credit: Astrid Eckert)

Blog Tour/Book Review: The Body Lies by Jo Baker

The Body Lies BT Poster

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Body Lies by Jo Baker.  Thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in the tour and to Doubleday for my review copy.

The Body LiesAbout the Book

When a young writer accepts a job at a university in the remote countryside, it’s meant to be a fresh start, away from the big city and the scene of a violent assault she’s desperate to forget. But when one of her students starts sending in chapters from his novel that blur the lines between fiction and reality, the professor recognises herself as the main character in his book – and he has written her a horrific fate.

Will she be able to stop life imitating art before it’s too late?

At once a breathless battle-of-wits and a disarming exploration of sexual politics, The Body Lies is an essential book for our times.

Format: Hardcover, ebook (288 pp.)    Publisher: Doubleday
Published: 13th June 2019  Genre: Thriller

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk  ǀ  Hive.co.uk (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find The Body Lies on Goodreads

My Review

When I reviewed Jo Baker’s book A Country Road, A Tree (shortlisted for The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2017), I described it as ‘clever, literary and powerful’. I feel the same adjectives can be applied to The Body Lies, the author’s foray into the psychological thriller genre but a book which still retains a distinctly literary feel.

Perhaps it’s brave (or maybe a sign of confidence in one’s ability) to write a novel in which the main character is leading a creative writing MA course and lecturing on the craft of writing. Our narrator, a debut novelist, certainly wonders about her qualification for the task. ‘I’d been appointed to teach students how to write novels. It felt rather like asking someone who’d once crash-landed a light aircraft to train people as commercial pilots.’ However, I reckon the author must have had fun creating the extracts from the work the students submit for critique as part of their course, ranging in genre as they do from hard-boiled crime to fantasy, short stories and something altogether more disturbing.

The Body Lies starts with a description of the body of a young woman so I gave a little chuckle when the critique the students give on the crime novel one of them, Steven, is writing focuses on that same aspect. “First thought is,” Nick said, one thumbnail still scraping at the other, “does it have to start with a dead woman?” “Well, that’s how these stories work,” Steven said. “That’s the story engine that powers the novel, so yeah, it does really.” Steven is criticised for using the dead girl merely as a device. Interestingly, the reader never learns the name of the protagonist of The Body Lies as if that aspect of her identity is not important. (The main character in A Country Road, A Tree was also unnamed, although in that book was easily identifiable as Samuel Beckett.)

The depiction of women in fiction is just one of the aspects of the position of women explored in The Body Lies. From practical issues, such as the pressure of balancing childcare and work, to, as the narrator sees it, men’s ‘sense of entitlement to a woman’s attention, and her body’, the latter powerfully played out in the opening chapter. And along the way, the book also explores topics such as the need for trigger warnings, safeguarding, student mental health and the pressure of workloads and course retention targets on staff in academic institutions.

It’s not all serious though and I really enjoyed the playful humour I detected. For example, at one point, in response to the narrator’s concern about the work submitted by one of her students, her colleague, Mina, replies, “He’s probably playing some tricksy postmodern game.” Expressing her concern the student might drop out, Patrick, another colleague, asks her, “He’s the real deal then?” She replies, “Yeah, I think he probably is.” Patrick responds, “Well, then he’ll write it anyway, won’t he, MA or no MA.” (I can imagine Will Self nodding in agreement at that point.)

Fans of the genre can rest assured The Body Lies incorporates many of the familiar characteristics of a psychological thriller. There’s a creepy and possibly unbalanced individual with an unhealthy obsession. The narrator and her young son find themselves renting a house in a remote, isolated location which also happens to be in a mobile phone black spot. Initially, she’s not worried and reflects ‘I rather liked being unreachable.’ That’s probably going to change, I’m sure you’re thinking. Too right. There are scenes in the book that will definitely make you want to check you’ve locked your doors. The observant reader may note a passing reference to an event the significance of which will only become apparent towards the end of the book. (No doubt the sort of advice about plot construction you’d expect a creative writing group to give.)

If this review is making you wonder if The Body Lies is just too clever and whether it actually works as a psychological thriller, I can reassure you it definitely does. There is tension, drama and sense of jeopardy aplenty as the book reaches it eventful conclusion. As everything slots into place, I can’t do better than echo the words of our unnamed narrator: ‘That’s how stories work: there’s something instinctively satisfying about circularity.’ This reader was definitely satisfied and can’t wait to see what Jo Baker writes next.

I received a review copy courtesy of publishers, Doubleday, and NetGalley.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

In three words: Intriguing, clever, literary

Try something similar…Exquisite by Sarah Stovell (read my review here)

JoBakerAbout the Author

Jo Baker is the author of the acclaimed and bestselling Longbourn and A Country Road, A Tree. Her new novel, The Body Lies, is a thrilling contemporary novel that explores violence against women in fiction but is also a disarming story of sexual politics.

Jo Baker lives with her family in Lancashire.

Connect with Jo

Website  ǀ  Facebook  ǀ  Twitter  ǀ Goodreads