‘The Child’s Child’ is written as a story within a story. The novel opens in the present day. Grace Easten is a PhD student writing her thesis about unmarried mothers in literature. Her brother Andrew, who is also her close friend, is gay.
Grace and Andrew inherit a large house in London and because of their close relationship, decide to divide the rooms and live there together. This works well for them until Andrew invites his new boyfriend – James, to live with him. Grace and James immediately start to argue about who was more persecuted through time – gay men or unmarried mothers. Then Grace gets pregnant and decides to keep her child and raise it without a husband.
At this point, Grace reads an unpublished novel – The Child’s Child – which is about a pregnant 15 year old – Maud and her gay brother – John living in the 1930s. When the book was written in the 1950s it was deemed unpublishable.
When Maud’s parents discover that she is pregnant, they disown her. Meanwhile, John has decided to live a life of celibacy, leaving the man he loves in London and taking a teaching post in Devon. John decides to take Maud to Devon with him, pretending that she is his wife, thereby giving respectability to both their lives.
But, life doesn’t go the way they have planned. John is unable to give up his boyfriend and continues with his hidden and destructive relationship. Maud is completely appalled with John’s homosexuality and her relationship with her brother goes downhill.
Most of the rest of the novel focuses on the story of Maud and John, only returning to Grace and Andrew towards the end of the book.
While the novel within a novel highlights a lot of the differences and similarities in attitudes towards homosexuality and unwed mothers, and the circumstances of the characters in the two stories have some similarities, there doesn’t seem to be all that much similarity between the personalities of the characters in the two stories. Grace, as the main character is presented as quite likeable whereas Maud is a spoiled and totally unlikeable brat (even when older) which can’t be completely attributed to having been a pregnant teenager. We don’t really see enough of Andrew to compare him to John.
The story was a reasonably good read, but just didn’t quite work for me. The messages presented in the 1930s story seemed to be completely overshadowed by Maud’s petulance. This is probably the first Ruth Rendell/ Barbara Vine novel that I haven’t found completely and devilishly clever!
Book Published 2012