Baby Oliver has been hurt. His arm is broken, it’s in a cast and he’s been sent to live with his grandparents while social services investigate a potential case of child abuse. Everyone in the house is on edge, mum Sally was out drinking and the last thing she remembers is passing out with exhaustion, dad Richard is lying about his whereabouts, everyone thinks he was home that night but his daughter Martha knows different. It’s in her interest to lie for him though because she has secrets of her own to keep.
Hush Little Baby is the first book I’ve read by author Joanna Barnard. I doubt it will be the last though. The novel explores a number of issues without cramming in too many to potentially confuse the reader. It is a poignant novel which explores the intrecracies of family life from the perspective of a mistress turned wife, a husband who admits he can’t stop falling in love and a teenage girl who has been put in a position she feels she can’t get out of. From extramarital affairs to depression, eating disorders, self-harming and drugs this novel has it all. It really does sound like it would be too much, but it’s not. What is, is realistic.
Joanna Barnard writes about life in reality. She takes the perfect family and sneaks into their home to find out all their little secrets, she explores the mind of a mother who’s not coping, a man who can’t keep away from pretty girls and a daughter from a previous marriage who’s all but shoved out, or at least feeling that way. There’s also a rather good plot twist thrown in as well.
The story is certainly thought provoking, it makes you sit back and realise not just how hard Social Services’ job is, but also how easy it is to suddenly find that the baby you planned, carried for 9 months and parented for another 10 can suddenly be taken away. The potential there for you to never see them again. It’s harrowing and intense although not fast paced. Joanna has a wonderful way of writing which sucks you right into the lives and minds of the family, where you find yourself rooting for everyone no matter your suspicions. It is an art form to write such genuine characters and despite the subject matter a seriously enjoyable book.