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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Review of THE NIGHT CHILD by Anna Quinn (New Release)

2.5 Stars 
Nora, a high school English teacher, starts having visions of a small child.  After the figure speaks to her, she decides to go for therapy and ends up uncovering memories of traumatic childhood experiences. 

The plot is very predictable.  With the introduction of dissociative identity disorder, the reader knows what Nora will learn since the disorder most often forms after certain kinds of trauma.  There have been any number of novels and films which have followed the same narrative line.  The plotting is clunky; characters are introduced only to be useful to Nora in uncovering her lost memories.  Elizabeth, Nora’s student, is a prime example, as is John, the school principal.  Both are mentioned only at specific times and, otherwise, are totally absent. 

Characterization is a definite weakness.  For some reason, I found it very difficult to connect with Nora.  Having been a high school English teacher myself, I was initially interested in Nora’s teaching but her career is soon put on hold.  Nora’s relationships which one would expect to be developed aren’t.  Specifically, her relationship with her husband is only touched on.  We are told that Paul is pre-occupied with his career, but then there are outbursts like, “’God, this place is a shit hole!’” and “’Christ, you look terrible.’”  His behaviour during Nora’s hospitalization is not realistic.

There are other relationships too that need development.  From flashbacks, we learn that Nora had a difficult relationship with her mother.  Her mother is physically abusive since Nora refers to bruises, but there are puzzling comments like, “Her mother never uses the Lord’s name in vain when her father plays with James [Nora’s brother].”  Is this supposed to indicate that Nora’s mother knows or suspects something and reacts by being harsher with her daughter?  Does she become an alcoholic because of her suspicions? 

Characters remain two-dimensional.  No one is really fully developed.  David, the therapist, is just too good to be true.  He spends entire days at her bedside?  The psychiatrist never visits her again?  John appears only to be a contrast to Paul.  In the end, I will not remember any of the characters; none are memorable.

There are some things that had me puzzled.  When Nora is in the hospital, she is told she had a concussion.  A concussion is treated with morphine?  Not being able to talk “’happens sometimes after a concussion’”?    Chapter 22 is set on “the afternoon of February 6” yet the nurse “brings her breakfast” and encourages her to enjoy her “morning coffee”?  A person who has dementia in February, living “in a nursing home with locked doors” and who “can barely leave his chair” was capable of a complicated Christmas surprise weeks earlier?  It seems that Nora has an eating disorder (bulimia) but that is never addressed by the therapist? 

I can only describe this novel as mediocre.  It really needs more revision and editing.  It is not a long book so characters and relationships could be developed further.  As is, the book succeeds only in being unremarkable and forgettable. 

Note:  I received an eARC of the book from the publisher via NetGalley.