*I was given advance access to the audiobook version of this book by the publisher*
I’ve been seeing publicity and marketing for Little Darlings on twitter for months. Very early proofs were carted around London in an old Silver Cross pram, and the aura of spookiness that surrounded the book was something I was quite excited to learn more about. So when an audiobook copy was available, I was very excited to sign up to listen to this story of a new mother, twins, stress, and possibly… magic?
‘Chilling story, beautiful prose. Little Darlings is stunning’ Clare Mackintosh
Leila Slimani’s Lullaby meets Rosemary’s Baby in the most unsettling book of the year. THE TWINS ARE CRYING.
THE TWINS ARE HUNGRY.
LAUREN IS CRYING.
LAUREN IS EXHAUSTED.
Behind the hospital curtain, someone is waiting . . .
After a traumatic birth, Lauren is alone on the maternity ward with her newborn twins. Her husband has gone home. The nurses are doing their rounds. She can’t stop thinking about every danger her babies now face. But all new mothers think like that. Don’t they?
A terrifying encounter in the middle of the night leaves Lauren convinced someone or something is trying to steal her children. But with every step she takes to keep her babies safe, Lauren sinks deeper and deeper into paranoia and fear. From the stark loneliness of returning home after birth, to the confines of a psychiatric unit, Lauren’s desperation increases as no one will listen to her. But here’s the question: is she mad, or does she know something we don’t?
Loosely inspired by the ghostly folktale The Brewery of Eggshells, where a mother becomes convinced her twins are in danger, Little Darlings offers a fresh perspective on modern motherhood, postnatal psychosis and the roles women play. It has always been thus: folk tales do not spring from whimsy; they warn us and teach us, and speak to the fear in us all.
I very much enjoyed this book. Lauren’s newborn exhaustion, more than doubled as she had twins, was so real, I felt every bit of sympathy for her. She’s stressed, overworked, confused, and trying to adjust to how massively life has changed. Her husband is… well, he’s something, anyway, And Lauren’s desperation and confusion and paranoia feels so very real. It was augmented by the audiobook, because you can hear the desperation in her voice as she thinks and talks and acts, so I think that really added to the atmosphere of the book.
On the topic of the audiobook – there was some really great sound recording in this one. Some of the chapters had quotes from old folk tales, and there was one character whose voice was creepily, eerily distorted, and I loved it. I felt like it added so much depth and excitement to the book in a way that my own brain wouldn’t be able to manage, because it can only just about create different voices for different characters.
I think the weakest parts of this book were probably the police procedural bits. The second main character, Harper, was conducting investigations off the books and off the cuff, trying to figure out what was going on, and hampered by her boss’s insistence that she stick to budget and to time. A lot of the time her characterisation felt a little bit false, and although there was a reason given for it, early on in the book, actually, and reiterated at the end, it didn’t really feel like it was a motivation sufficient for Harper’s actions.
And, actually, Lauren’s husband was a terribly dull character. Just your common or garden shit husband, I had no interest in him at all. What a knob. LTB.
The most interesting part of the book, though, was the eerie, supernatural elements which were woven throughout. Lauren is convinced that some kind of supernatural creature has come to change her babies for its own, and this theme of changelings seeps through the book. The creepy, unnatural elements of it are especially prevalent when we’re in Lauren’s head, and create a dark, chilling atmosphere which is terribly uneasy but utterly compelling.
The prologue of the book actually sets the scene for the climax of the action, so we know going in what we’re building up to, but the journey to that point is really what’s interesting as Lauren’s mind unravels and her actions become less and less predictable. You can see Lauren’s desperate actions and increasing paranoia, and totally understand and sympathise with her actions.
The dénouement of the book was excellent. Revelling in the uncertainty of all that came before it, it has the same lack of resolution that actually normally frustrates the hell out of me with magical realism. You never know if there was actually magic going on in these books, and this wrecks my head, because I like things to be concrete. But for Little Darlings, the ambiguity is actually wonderful. It’s the cherry on top of the dark and unsettling fairy tale/nightmare that is Lauren’s life.
Thoroughly enjoyable, creepy, dark, and engaging, Little Darlings is published this Thursday.