Michael Joseph | 7 January 2021 | 320 pgs
For starters, it's hard to read this book, let alone writing my thoughts. The story is dark and unsettling; yet one couldn't avoid looking at some of the issues raised.
As a girl, Blythe Connor is raised lacking warmth and attention from her mother, Cecilia. Now that she'd grown up and married, she's aiming to be a woman unlike her mother and most importantly, she doesn't want sad history to repeat itself. After Violet is born, she makes sure she gives enough love and attention to Violet. She's sure nothing would go wrong if she's doing all the right things to her first child and hopefully, Violet would grow up to be a happy and healthy girl unlike her unhappy past.
As the days go by, Blythe soon notices that there's something about Violet that she can't put her finger on it. Her husband, Fox, thinks otherwise and believes that Blythe is either imagining things or motherhood is tiring her out. As Blythe thinks about Violet's characteristics, she also couldn't help wondering about her childhood life as well as the mental wellness and upbringing of the women in her family heritage. Her grandmother, Etta, suffered from mental illness and as a result, Cecilia was raised without much mother's love and this in turn, affects Blythe’s life growing up. Blythe begins questioning herself if she's following the path of the women of her family generations - that they couldn't and didn't have the capacity of filling the role of a mother. Or perhaps as what she fears, there's really something wrong with Violet?
Unreliable narrator. Motherhood. Nature versus nurture. These are the few elements that nudged at my mind as I read the book and the more I read, I felt a sense of dread, unease and sorrow as well. Blythe was a complex character; and of course this extends to Violet as well as I didn't know what's really in that little mind of hers. Is she capable of doing bad things, or if genes and characteristics could pass down from generations, affecting one's role of being a mother? And then, there's the issues of expectations and stereotypical role as a mother. How do one look at motherhood and is there even a right or wrong way of bringing up a child?
There's so much to talk about this book and I could see why there's so much hype surrounding it when it was released. Perhaps it's just me, but I didn't quite like the storytelling style which was written in second person narrative. Although there's some interpretations of Cecilia's life in between chapters, there's no indication of what's past and present though to the author's credit, it wasn't hard to figure so it's simply a personal view/preference. Overall it was a thought-provoking read and I could see this as a good fit for discussions.
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