Martin Randall's Reviews > The Secret Baby Room

The Secret Baby Room by D.D. Johnston
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Jul 07, 2015

it was amazing

This novel blends a number of genres into its 283 pages and as such the text is brimming with ideas, social comment, satire, compelling plot and many examples of fine writing. Because of this literary hybridity it's maybe tempting, at first, to think that 'The Secret Baby Room' is somehow trying to pack in too many themes and plot developments but by the end (a satisfying and psychologically astute climax), it's clear that the author has been in control of the novel's complexity all along.
There are various 'secret baby rooms' scattered throughout the text - from past to present, actual to psychological - and it's this central trope that accumulates a power that results in a devastating denouement that recalls the equally chilling final scenes in Polanski's 'Chinatown'. These are traces of loss and trauma buried in memories (collective and individual), buildings and wider society. Despite the propulsion of the plot, the sense of grief is often palpable and there's a genuine concern here for mothers and children and how they must deal with the intense hegemony of patriarchy.
This is a Feminist novel then: in Claire's gradual transformation; her burgeoning friendship with the charismatic Lianne; the concern with the various 'performances' of gender; and a general sense of female empowerment that works both at the level of metaphor and plot.
But, crucially, it's funny too - the parody of middle-class hippy banalities, the 'red herring' of supernatural mythologies, heterosexual male prejudice and, even, the problematics of knocking down a high-rise block of flats. Not to mention some extremely beautiful (and, given the urban surroundings, unexpected) nature writing.
So it's a sophisticated blend of psychological thriller, social satire, literary characterization and an examination of how a wide group of people from all sides of British culture manage their lives in a post-industrial landscape.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
June 30, 2015 – Finished Reading
July 7, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
July 7, 2015 – Shelved

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