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Book Review: ‘The Child’ by Fiona Barton

Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all well. Just as a side-note – I’ve just made an official Instagram account for this site! If you’d like to follow me, find me at: @thebookwormsfantasy. Today I’m posting my review of Fiona Barton’s novel, ‘The Child’. I read this whilst on holiday and absolutely loved it! Keep reading to discover my thoughts…



the child

When a paragraph in an evening newspaper reveals a decades-old tragedy, most readers barely give it a glance. But for three strangers it’s impossible to ignore.

For one woman, it’s a reminder of the worst thing that ever happened to her.

For another, it reveals the dangerous possibility that her darkest secret is about to be discovered.

And for the third, a journalist, it’s the first clue in a hunt to uncover the truth.

The Child’s story will be told.

** TRIGGER WARNING ** Contains references to fertility issues and problems related to motherhood. Makes repeated references to the body of a newborn baby. Explores the theme of sexual abuse, including scenes of rape and date-rape drugs. Also explores the theme of mental illness. 


‘The Child’ (2017) is Fiona Barton’s second novel, following on from ‘The Widow’ (2016). ‘The Child’ is one of the Richard and Judy Book Club picks for 2018. Barton has worked as a journalist for many years, and has previously won Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards. She was born in Cambridge and currently lives in Sussex and south-west France.

The novel has received rave reviews, for example by Sunday Mirror: “This expertly executed thriller, full of gritty authentic detail, is made even better by a killer twist that will catch you off guard”. Many fellow authors also praised the book, such as Clare Mackintosh: “Clever and compelling”, Shari Lapena: “An engrossing, irresistable story about the coming to light of a long-buried secret” and Lee Child: “Tense, tantalising and ultimately very satisfying”.

‘The Child’ follows the lives of multiple characters, all of whom are involved with “the child” in some way. When the body of a baby is found on a building site, journalist Kate Waters takes it upon herself to investigate the case. But this case is much more complex than first anticipated, and many deep secrets are uncovered…

The story is told from the perspectives of Emma, Kate, Angela and occasionally Jude. Some of these perspectives are written from the first person, and some are narrated from the third person. This provides the reader with an in-depth insight to the characters’ thoughts and feelings, and offers plenty of variety and interest. The narrative is mostly told in the present day, with some allusions to the past. The narrative is slightly more complex and intricate, but is still relatively easy to follow.

My favourite character in the novel is Kate. She’s a journalist and works for a local newspaper, but she’s definitely not sleazy and she has clear morals. She takes a particular interest in this new baby case, but she wishes to only let the victims tell their stories, and isn’t looking to exploit anybody. She’s kind-hearted and down to earth, and she’s very loyal to others. She puts others needs before her own, and is never selfish or arrogant. She does have her flaws though and she certainly isn’t perfect, making for a very realistic, believable characterisation.

I also really liked Emma. It’s unclear at first how she is related to the baby case, but it eventually becomes clear. She’s lovely and kind, and she’s loved by many of those around her. She’s had some difficulties in her life and hasn’t had the best upbringing, and she’s still very traumatised by her past. As the novel goes on, Emma reveals a deep, dark secret that she’s been burying for all these years. I really felt a great deal of sympathy towards her, as she is really suffering.

Angela’s involvement in the baby case is clear from the beginning. She’s also suffered a great deal in her life, and this case may provide her with the answers she’s been searching for for years. She strikes up a relationship with journalist Kate, who becomes her rock in this difficult time. Angela is a devoted mother and husband, but she can’t help feeling that there’s something missing. She’s lovely and kind, and she deserves the best in life. I felt a great deal of sympathy towards her, and found her to be a very realistic character.

Other characters in the novel include: Jude (Emma’s mother), Paul (Emma’s husband), Nick (Angela’s husband), Louise and Patrick (Angela’s children), Joe (Kate’s work experience student), and various members of the police team and workers at the newspaper. There is a relatively large cast of characters in the novel, and all bring something fresh and exciting to the story.

** TRIGGER WARNING ** (I apologise for any spoilers here.) This novel is centered around the discovery of a deceased baby’s body, which some readers may find difficult. It also explores the theme of fertility issues and problems related to motherhood/childbirth/babies. The novel explores the theme of sexual abuse, including a detailed scene of rape and repeated references to rape, and also date-rape drugs. Finally, the novel also explores the theme of mental illness. These issues are all explored in sufficient detail and with appropriate sensitivity, but if any may trigger a negative response, I suggest you skip this book.

As the narrative motors onwards, more and more details are released about the deceased baby, and the case becomes more confusing. The journalists and the police team do their best to solve the case, but it’s proving to be extremely difficult, and they are pushed to their limits. Many secrets begin to be unearthed and the truth is finally starting to come out – but is it too late?

So, let’s talk about the ending. There’s a dramatic reveal near the end of the book that changes the entire course of the novel. Barton throws a massive curveball, and the narrative switches direction entirely. All the secrets are revealed and the truth finally comes out, in the most shocking way. I certainly never could have predicted the ending! I was really happy with the way the novel was resolved, and felt that it tied everything together brilliantly.

Overall, I highly recommend this novel to those of you who enjoy psychological thrillers, particularly those of you who enjoy reading thrillers with multiple different perspectives. The characters are all fantastic, there is plenty of suspense and tension throughout, and some killer twists! My only criticism is that the subject matter is very dark, and some scenes were uncomfortable to read. But I’m really glad I read it still! An utterly compelling read.









Happy reading 🙂

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