This is one of those books that everybody seemed to be talking about on LibraryThing, so I ordered a copy from the library.
This evening I sat down read all 120 pages in one sitting, completely hooked.
The story opens with Olivia returning to her mother’s home with her two children. She has just left her abusive husband. Her relationship with her mother has been difficult, but coming home was clearly her only option, and something she had to do for the sake of her two young children.
Later the same day Olivia’s brother Marcus returns home with his wife Sophie, who has just given birth the child she has long wished for. But the child was stillborn and, rather than taking the child to the morgue, the hospital has given the baby to Sophie and Marcus to take home and “get to know” before the funeral.
Sophie is distraught and carries the baby around like a doll, refusing to let go.
Thus the balance of the household, both family and staff, is lost and the scene is set – for more tragedy or for recovery?
Julia Leigh writes lovely prose and is clearly skilled in the art of story-telling. She creates an ominous atmosphere from the very start and steadily builds the tension as the story advances.
The characters are fully formed but, by using little dialogue and frequently referring to characters as “the woman” or “the boy” and not by their names, they are always at a distance, observed rather than met.
In the hand of lesser writers that could reduce the emotional impact of events, but not here.
The story is harrowing, but there are glimpses of hope, and the images created by this modern-day gothic novella will stay with me for some time.