I loved Kerry Fisher’s first novel, The School Gate Survival Guide - it was fresh and funny, even if the title was a bit meh (apparently it’s now been retitled The Not So Perfect Mum, which is even worse). Anyway the book was great and made me an instant fan of the author. I’ve read and enjoyed her subsequent books too but none proved quite as memorable as the first; however I think The Secret Child just might.
It opens in heartbreaking fashion with Suzanne Duarte giving her six-week-old baby boy away for adoption in 1968. (The year I was born!) Susie’s not an unwed teenager though - she’s a young married woman with a child already and a husband away at sea. Knowing she can never explain the existence of baby Edward and at risk of losing everything, Susie has to make the devastating choice to give him up and pretend nothing has happened. But the corrosive effects of grief and deceit will tarnish everything for her.
This has the feel of a sprawling family saga, following Susie’s life and family from 1968 to the present day, examining how all her relationships - with her loving husband Danny, daughters Louise and Grace - are changed and damaged by the huge secret she can never reveal. Can Susie ever reconnect with the baby she lost, without destroying everything?
This was a very emotional read which had me gripped from the first page, desperate to find out how things would turn out, particularly towards the end. It’s narrated first by Susie and then in the second half by her rebellious younger daughter Grace, which works very well in showing us first why Susie is the way she is, then how that is perceived by others. It’s quite a long book and I can imagine that some people might find it too drawn out at times but it worked perfectly for me.
A powerful and frankly heartbreaking story with believable, nuanced characters.... highly recommended.