Sunday, 15 August 2010
Book review : Deceptions - Rebecca Frayn
Deceptions tells the tale of every parent's worst nightmare - your child suddenly goes missing. In this harrowingly realistic portrayal, we follow the psychological meltdown of the fraught mother as she desperately looks for answers, blames herself and those around her and ultimately realises how little she actually knew about her son. We can really relate to her anguish and sense of life being put on hold then slowly having to come to terms with it and move on for the sake of the rest of the family. There is a great deal of poignancy in certain scenes, such as when, three years on, she stumbles across one of her son's schoolfriends and realises with a start that the little prepubescent boy she still holds in her memory would now have started growing into a young man. It really puts into perspective cases like Maddie McCann where the media frenzy puts the parents' plight into the spotlight before inevitably picking them apart and more or less overtly pointing the finger at them.
The breakdown of the relationship between the mother and her partner (who narrates the story) seems sadly inevitable in the circumstances and we can but watch as the anguished mother almost starts to self-destruct.
Then just as suddenly as he'd disappeared, the son returns. It seems too good to be true - and sadly it probably is. Niggling doubts crop up but are instantly swept under the carpet - so his eyes have changed colour ? Someone must have given him drugs. It could happen, she looked it up on google. So he can't read or ride a bike any more ? Well, he must have just forgotten how. We can understand that the mother wants and needs to believe that her ordeal is over and that she is willing to believe in the moment and not ask any questions. We come to realise that the mother isn't toally convinced either but is happy to love a mysterious stand-in rather than have the unbearable emptiness.
The chapters count down so I was expecting a big explosive ending but nothing really happens. I was a bit disappointed that it goes out with a whimper rather than a bang but the most touching part is learning at the end that this is based on a true story. Two things slightly detracted from my wholehearted enjoyment of the novel - firstly, the fact that the ending is left open with no real closure. He's gone again but who was he really ? Was the mother right to believe or her ex-partner right to doubt ? I would have preferred a more clear-cut finality but then I suppose this helps us to empathise with the mother's ordeal as it is what she would feel herself. The second thing that I found slightly disappointing was the title, Deceptions, which rather gave the game away in the early part of the novel when the prodigal son returns.
It's an emotionally intense read that offers a harrowingly realistic portrayal of a mother's grief.
star rating : 4/5
RRP : £12.99
Simon & Schuster UK, May 2010
Trade Paperback, 240 pages
other reviews you might be interested in :
Book review : My Last Confession - Helen FitzGerald
Book review : Hand of Fate - Lis Wiehl
Book review : Henry's Sisters - Cathy Lamb
Book review : Pictures of You - Jane Elmor