Welcome to my blog. I am Miriam Downey, the Cyberlibrarian. I am a retired librarian and a lifelong reader. I read and review books in four major genres: fiction, non-fiction, memoir and spiritual. My goal is to relate what I read to my life experience. I read books culled from reviews in The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, Bookmarks, and The New Yorker. I also accept books from authors and publicists. I am having a great time.
Hope you will join me on the journey.
Monday, July 10, 2017
By Fiona Barton Berkley 2017 364 pages Mystery
As you know, I am pretty much an uncritical reader when I am
reading for pleasure, and I anticipated that The Child by Fiona Barton,
which I began on the plane ride home from Iceland last week, would be that kind
of book. It had been much touted in the book review world, and I got an
advanced reader’s copy for a review. I pretty much accepted the premise and the
plot—enjoying it every time I picked it up to read a bit—and it wasn’t until I
closed the book for the final time that I paused and thought, “Well, so what!”
Let me tell you a bit about the plot.
The bones of a newborn are discovered in a construction
site. DNA testing confirms that it is an infant who has been dead for 40 years.
So, why is it buried in a 30-year-old newspaper? Four women tell the story:
Kate, a newspaper woman who seizes on the story; Emma who is following the
story with great interest; Jude, her mother; and Angela, who it appears is the
mother of the infant. Angela is sure that the infant is hers, but Emma insists
that she is the mother.
Barton introduced Kate the investigative reporter in her first
novel, The Widow. Kate is in her
early 50s and is trying to maintain her career in the midst of enormous changes
in the newspaper world. She works tenaciously to keep on top of the story and
keep the editor happy. It is rather refreshing to have a woman news reporter
serving as the case solver, and although intricate, the story is more
personality driven than plot driven. Kate
has many pithy thoughts about the current state of journalism and she proves to
be an appropriate witness to what most of us are thinking about newspapers and
news reporters. Through persistence, Kate gains the trust of the three women
individually, and because of that, she is able to solve the case. She believes
that a reporter must get close to “tell the full story.” “Without empathy,
without feeling someone’s pain, how could you tell a story.”
Journalist Maureen Corrigan, who reviewed the book for the Washington Post, believes that Kate
did not maintain an appropriate balance as she tries to support the women and
keep the news story going, even as the clues become more convoluted. Corrigan
thinks that the character lost her professional balance. Frankly, Corrigan eviscerates
the book. “The
Child is a middling and much-too-long suspense story that would have
benefited from a ruthless red-pencil.” And while I admire Corrigan and her
work, I believe that she is too hard on Barton. The Child was better than
that, particularly in the characterization of Emma, whose whole life has been
disoriented. I have known women like Emma. I also liked Kate’s tenacity and
drive. I have known women like Kate as well.
Anyway, I finished The Child yesterday at the beach. It
was a perfect beach day and a perfect beach read.