Sunday, 25 March 2012
Review No 3: The Mistake by Wendy James
I had never heard of this book (or author) until I noticed other reviews of it on the AWW Blog (which again shows that our own homegrown authors don't get nearly enough publicity). Anyway, upon reading them I knew that I just had to read the book and I have to say it was definitely worth the wait at the library. I actually finished it within 3 days, which is unusually fast for me.
First up I noticed the similarity between this book and the Kellie Lane case (of the water polo player who was convicted of murder after claiming she had given up her newborn daughter in an illegal adoption). In saying it is similar, it is only the element of the missing baby that is the same - which of course is a very compelling theme. The rest of the circumstances are very different.
Jodie Garrow had a hellish childhood on the wrong side of the tracks. Fighting her way above her background, she manages to secure a scholarship to a private school and from there manages to educate her way into the middle class. From here she marries well and has all the 'right' things - a solid marriage to a lawyer, two children and a nice home in the 'right' area of the regional community of Arding, NSW. But Jodie also has a secret - two decades ago she gave away a baby in an illegal adoption. Believing it will never come out, Jodie's world comes crashing down when - through a series of unlikely circumstances - the missing baby is reported to the authorities. And then the nightmare begins.
One of the best things about this book is the way it gets right into the storyline. There is no tense wait to get to the missing baby, it comes about in the first few pages. This suspense continues throughout the story, with both flashback and present day events woven seamlessly together. The book really captures the way the media pounces on cases like this and creates a momentum that is hard to stop. Jodie is harassed and spat at and her family are similarly affected by her actions from so long ago.
Throughout all this Jodie maintains a seemingly detached calm - continuing with her daily life, refusing to believe what has happened. She seems much more concerned with keeping up this polished public face than expressing any emotion about what happened to her baby. She is a complex character, but an intriguing one and as the book progresses and you read more of the flashback scenes, you do get more of a sense of what has made her the woman she is. While I started to 'get' her a bit more by the end, I don't think I could say that I liked her. She just seemed too plastic.
Throughout all the things that are happening, you are, of course, wondering just what happened to the baby. And believe me you are kept guessing right until the end. I had considered several scenarios but not the one that is eventually revealed.
Overall this was an amazing book. The storyline hooks you early one and keeps you turning the pages as fast as you can, hungry to devour more of the narrative. It works on so many levels - including that of the moral dilemma and how we treat people accused of things before they are proven guilty.
Rating 5 stars. Category - psychological thriller.