Friday, 16 May 2014

A book to devour: Caroline Overington's Ghost Child

Some books are there to be savoured, others are gobbled down in just a day or two. When I picked up Caroline Overington's Ghost Child, I had a feeling it would be one of the latter. I didn't know much about it, but I'd heard Overington's writing compared to that of Jodi Piccoult and expected a quality commercial read. In fact, Ghost Child exceeded my expectations.

Caroline Overington's Ghost Child: a delicious read

Overington's publishers, Random House, describe Ghost Child as 'a multi-voiced novel centred around a child's death and its terrible repercussions.' Here's their summary of the story:

"In 1982 Victorian police were called to a home on a housing estate an hour west of Melbourne. There, they found a five-year-old boy lying still and silent on the carpet. There were no obvious signs of trauma, but the child, Jacob, died the next day.  
The story made the headlines and hundreds attended the funeral. Few people were surprised when the boy's mother and her boyfriend went to prison for the crime. Police declared themselves satisfied with the result, saying there was no doubt that justice had been done.  
And yet, for years rumours swept the estate and clung like cobwebs to the long-vacant house: there had been a cover-up. The real perpetrator, at least according to local gossip, was the boy's six-year-old sister, Lauren. 
Twenty years on, Lauren has created a new life for herself, but details of Jacob's death begin to resurface and the story again makes the newspapers. As Lauren struggles with the ghosts of her childhood, it seems only a matter of time before the past catches up with her."

Ghost Child is an easy read, but it's a confronting one too. Overington tells the story through the mouths of a whole cast of characters, some major some minor, and so we have a glimpse of multiple perspectives as the story unfolds. She has a real talent for taking us inside someone else's head - and for conveying characterisation through little more than speech. Whether we love or loathe the people in this story, our feelings are usually inspired by their thoughts, their words...

By the same token, it's hard not to feel that the children in story have been failed by the state systems that are meant to care for and protect them, but at the same time we are led to understand how many of the system's failings have come about.

I picked up this book expecting a quick easy read. And it delivered on both fronts. But days later Ghost Child is still haunting me. This was the first book I've read by Caroline Overington, but it's left me wanting more.

What are you reading at the moment? And has it surprised you in anyway?