The Child - Fiona Barton

I always give authors at least two chances to impress me. While I did not totally dislike Fiona Barton’s debut novel, The Widow, I did feel it dragged substantially in its latter half and didn’t really work as a compelling mystery. Its twists and shocks — such as they were — were easy to predict, making for a relatively boring experience. However, Barton has a background in crime reporting and does know her way around a phrase. Her books are, technically, well written. They make sense; they have credible setups and characters’ motivations are clear. I felt that way when reading The Widow(which I gave three stars to) and feel that way about this, her newest release: The Child

How does The Child measure up against Barton’s previous outing? It is certainly an improvement! Though quite similar in tone and pacing to her other release, in this the author amps up the macabre and intrigue and dread. Though I was able to predict some of the twists in this mystery, I didn’t see most of them coming. Fiona Barton seems more comfortable as a novelist here; it makes for a very pleasant reading experience. 

The premise is rather simple: the skeletal remains of a baby are found buried at a construction site. Who buried it there, and why? The Child sees the return of investigative reporter Kate Waters, a main character in The Widow. She is the one digging at this, trying her hardest to find out what happened. The novel is centered on this mystery, and the lives of the people who are entangled in this strange discovery. 

I really enjoyed this. Though I do have a few qualms — the story needlessly drags in places, Barton’s male characters aren’t fleshed out at all, the ending is a little rushed — I can definitely say I was a little surprised by how much I loved this novel. Part crime drama, part mystery, part thriller, this is certainly one of the more memorable and rewarding books I’ve read in 2017. Highly recommended.

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Reading goal 

Reading goal for the next month, or so: catching up on ARCs. Netgalley is beginning to deny my requests left and right, and I know it is because I am so terribly behind on submitting feedback! 



A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

I’d somehow, up to this point, never read A Tale of Two Cities. I know, I can’t believe it either. 

Set against the backdrop of the French Revolution and the years leading up to it, this is, at its very core, a romance novel. I was a little shocked by that, but I certainly didn’t mind. Dickens’s writing is simply breathtaking, and he never allows the characters’ actions to become contrived. These people aren’t saccharine cutouts, as is typical of romance novels (even from this era). Instead, it’s a roomy, elegant story told with magnificent prose and populated with memorable characters. 

Most Dickens novels drag a bit (at least, the few I’ve read do), but this one doesn’t. Not at all. From its iconic opening passage to the final chapter, the plot is pretty quick and doesn’t get bogged down in an excessive amount of characters and subplots (looking at you, Our Mutual Friend). Instead, Dickens focuses on only a handful of characters and develops them fully. By the novel’s third part I was truly invested in their lives, and wanted to know how everything would turn out. I truly cared! When reading most novels from the Victorian Age, I find myself a little put off by their chilliness, their dust and age. Not here. A Tale of Two Citiesfeels rather progressive and is very emotionally involving. 

If I were to critique this novel, I would say perhaps Dickens sacrificed a full exploration of the time period he was writing about to, instead, focus on his characters. I would’ve loved to have seen more build-up to the Revolution, though what the reader does get is fine. I could’ve done with more guillotine scenes myself. 

So far, this is my favorite Dickens novel — though I have many to read yet. This one certainly deserves its classic status, and I can’t wait to give it a reread in a few years.

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