Reviews Published

Monday, January 23, 2006

Monsters in law

By the time "The Little House" by Philippa Gregory arrived from the library, I could no longer remember why I'd ordered it. The blurb said "psychological thriller", and I smiled in anticipation of a book that - for a change - didn't have babies in it. By the time I realised that "The Little House" did indeed feature babies and bored housewives, it was too late: I was hooked.

I wouldn't exactly describe it as a thriller, though. It's a contemporary novel, unlike the author's usual work (and it only mentions the slaves of Bristol in passing). Call it women's fiction, if you like. There is nothing wrong with the label. Fiction that would appeal to women, most often written by a woman. "We need to talk about Kevin" is women's fiction. "Sexing the cherry" is women's fiction. And so is "The handmaid's tale". But I digress.

Most reviews would describe "The Little House" as a book "for every woman who feels like she's married her inlaws" and a "warning for those about to marry a mummy's boy". I didn't see it as that... perhaps because my own inlaws aren't an interfering bunch. What I saw was a mother in law trying to do her best for her son and grandson. I saw a mother in law who could look after a baby and still run an immaculate household, two households, to be precise, and never resort to ready-made dinners for the baby or the grown-ups. I mean, come on, how many women can manage that? *she says glancing guiltily at the grubby kitchen floor*

I confess the book grabbed my emotions and wrung them dry. I confess I couldn't bear the prospect of the heroine being forced to give up her baby (yeah, ok, being forced by her mother in law, to be precise). And I confess to breaking the cardinal rule and reading the ending when I was only halfway through the book, when I could stand the suspense no longer. And I blame all of it solely on the motherhood hormones racing through my body. I'm sure a non-mother would put down this book wondering what the fuss was all about.


Anonymous said...

You read the ending before reaching it!!!

Yvonne Eve Walus said...

Hey, only this once! :-) I couldn't take the tension. SPOILER SPOILER: I thought that if the heroine (who, admittedly, was flaky material for a mother) were to lose her rights to caring for her baby, then I didn't want to read about it. It would be too heartbreaking.