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★★ WINNER OF THE JERWOOD FICTION UNCOVERED PRIZE 2015 ★★
A mother’s love is the strongest energy known to man.
This is the story of two women, Nula and Maggie, joined by old family history and love for same little boy.
Nula, struggling with her new baby and feeling alone in her marriage, employs her cousin Maggie as a nanny when she returns to work.
Maggie came to work for Nula as a child minder/nanny as Nula worked full time and so too her husband. But it’s not long before Nula finds herself theatened by Maggie’s close bond with her son, Samuel.
Things couldn’t have been more perfect right? with having a qualified person to look after your child.
Nula’s outwardly perfect house crackles with unspoken jealousies and rivalry until Maggie’s intense love for Samuel tips into obsession and she decides her only option is to abduct the child.
As Maggie makes her desperate bid for safety, the women’s shared past of trauma and loss comes to the fore once more.
One day, Maggie takes off with just a holdall and the child.
That is when the flashbacks come into place, but they soon all tie up, you get to realize things within these flashbacks as to things were not perfect.
☞ How does it feel to come home from work one evening and find your two-year-old son gone?
☞ How does it feel to steal another woman’s child?
☞ To take a boy from his mother, and try to make him yours, make things right?
This compelling, tense psychological drama is the story of two women, Nula and Maggie, joined by old family history and love for the same little boy. Perfect for fans of Maggie O’Farrell, Rose Tremain, Ian McEwan, and Rachel Cusk.
Bethan Roberts, an English author, has penned an incredibly intriguing tale about the power of a mother’s love, in her book, Mother Island.
This is a story that evokes the power, capacity and the strength of a mother’s love for her own flesh and blood.
A young woman’s irrevocable love and obsession for her brother turns her into a psychologically traumatized woman, who then embarks on a darker path in order to restore her love for her brother as well as her life all those years ago, which fell apart!
Review From Independent UK :
Mother Island by Bethan Roberts, book review: Tale of jealous mind makes for gripping thriller
There’s little more engrossing than a top-notch psychological thriller. Bethan Roberts’s latest novel doesn’t disappoint – it’s satisfyingly creepy and stimulates that delicious paradox: goose-pimples in summer.
The novel starts in the present. Maggie, a nanny and loner, is planning with matter-of-fact calm how she will steal the baby she is employed to look after, Samuel.
Samuel belongs to Maggie’s cousin Nula and Nula’s cocky husband Greg. There are chilling glimpses that a deep resentment has been festering in Maggie for a long time: “It had been 16 years. Maggie had counted every one.”
The action shifts to various times in the past, and we gain insights into Nula’s postpartum depression, Maggie’s life, and, most compellingly, a summer that Nula spent with Maggie’s family on Anglesey, during which relationships were forged and broken.
The chapters are in the third-person, but seen from the perspective of either Maggie or Nula. Interspersed with these are shifts back to the present, and Maggie’s abduction of Samuel.
Roberts is excellent on Maggie’s distorted view; her deluded belief that Samuel belongs with her. When Samuel buries his head in his mother’s lap as Maggie leaves after a routine day, Maggie misinterprets the gesture as showing that he can’t bear to say goodbye to her.
When he turns his face away from Maggie one Saturday, she tickles him and tells Nula that they have a private joke. She is convinced that she knows best as far as care of Samuel is concerned, even though she feeds him chocolate, and reheats rice and chicken several times.
Roberts is also good on the way mothers feel threatened by the closeness their babies develop to others.
In fact, one of the themes of the novel is jealousy: that of a mother for her baby’s affection for his nanny; that of a sister for her brother’s infatuation with a girlfriend; that of a girl for the attention bestowed by her father onto her aunt or cousin.
There are a couple of times when Roberts’s use of tense seems slightly off: a momentary shift from the perfect past tense to the present tense on page 22, and, in a scene on page 134 set in the past in which the action shifts briefly to the more distant past.
But these are tiny gripes. The writing is simple and accessible but proficient, engaging and quietly convincing, with occasional inspired sentences, such as the description of the faces of a harried mother and screaming toddler as “pink explosions of fury”.
It is not as dazzlingly perceptive of every detail as my thriller chiller of the year, Harriet Lane’s Her, but it certainly comes close.
About the Author
Bethan Roberts has worked as a television documentary researcher, writer and assistant producer, and has taught Creative Writing at Chichester University and Goldsmiths College, London. She is the author of The Good Plain Cook, which was serialized on BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtimeand was chosen as one of Time Out’s books of the year; My Policeman; and The Pools, which won a Jerwood/Arvon Young Writers’ Award.