Title: The Golden Child
Author: Wendy James
Published: January 23rd 2017
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Australian
Rating: 4 stars
Can bad children happen to good mothers? A totally absorbing novel, for readers of Liane Moriarty, Lionel Shriver and Christos Tsiolkas.
Blogger Lizzy’s life is buzzing, happy, normal. Two gorgeous children, a handsome husband, destiny under control. For her real-life alter-ego Beth, things are unravelling. Tensions are simmering with her husband, mother-in-law and even her own mother. Her teenage daughters, once the objects of her existence, have moved beyond her grasp and one of them has shown signs of, well, thoughtlessness …
Then a classmate of one daughter is callously bullied and the finger of blame is pointed at Beth’s clever, beautiful child. Shattered, shamed and frightened, two families must negotiate worlds of cruelty they are totally ill-equipped for.
This is a novel that grapples with modern-day spectres of selfies, selfishness and cyberbullying. It plays with our fears of parenting, social media and Queen Bees, and it asks the question: just how well do you know your child?
As I went through my usual routine of checking my social media accounts first thing in the morning, today I came across an all too familiar item in my news feed. A story posted through a relative in the UK, came to my attention. A 14 year old girl tragically took her own life after a secret battle against cyber-bullies. The teenager’s mother only found out about the torment her daughter was subjected to when messages were uncovered from the teenager girl’s phone. This article not only broke my heart but it was also timely, as I was about to write my review of Wendy James latest release, The Golden Child, a book that examines a case of cyber bullying. This hard-hitting, as well as highly topical novel, looks at the various sides of cyber bullying, from the perpetrator, to the victim and their respective families.
The Golden Child is essentially about two families, their experiences with a terrible act of cyber bullying and the fallout that ensues. The first family is the perpetrator’s family. Beth is a stay at home mum and blogger to two daughters, Lucy and Charlotte, raising them with her husband Dan. Originally from Australia, the Mahony family have made New Jersey in the US their home for ten years. An opportunity to move back to Australia soon arises and the family decide to make the big move back. The move seems to have come at the right time, as Charlotte, their youngest daughter, has got herself in a spot of bother. Charlotte has been accused of being the ringleader in a gang related dare gone wrong, resulting in the hospitalisation of a young girl. The Mahony’s are happy to make a fresh start back in Newcastle after the incident. When the Mahony girls start at a prestigious ladies college, another incident of bullying occurs, this time at a more tragic level. Again, Charlotte is thrust into the spotlight, with the blame falling directly on Beth’s talented and popular younger daughter. With Charlotte refusing to take the blame, the bullying victim’s parents seeking retribution and family members such as her husband and mother in law doubting Charlotte’s innocence, it all comes to a head. Beth is forced to examine her children’s actions critically – at a heartbreaking cost.
Any author who is willing to attack the very real and relevant issue of bullying, especially in the virtual world has my respect. Wendy James, an author I am familiar with, after reading two of her novels in the past, has taken on a mighty feat with her latest novel. James manages to provide the reader with a well rounded story of cyber bullying, through combining perspectives of the bully, the victim and the loved ones affected by the incident. The Golden Child is a book that draws our attention to the issues that are at the very epicentre of our modern society. These include teen suicide, the struggle to just feel ‘accepted’ in society and the power of social media in all its forms. Intertwined with these themes is a suburban noir style narrative, which makes The Golden Child comparable to other novels in this genre. The Golden Child reminded me of novels such as Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. Both of these novels require the reader to weigh in on the moral quandaries at the heart of situation the characters in these novels face.
The Golden Child is structured in an original way that held my interest from beginning to the end. In addition to the general narrative centred around the two main families, the point of view shifts between mothers Beth and Andi and their two tween daughters, Charlotte and Sophie. James contrasts these perspectives well, offering the reader a fair representation of experiences. Interspersed within the storyline are intriguing blog posts from Beth’s blog DizzyLizzy.com and her follower’s responses. Also included are passages from THEGOLDENCHILD.COM, a website with a sinister ulterior motive that readers will assume links to Charlotte, the accused bully of the story. Excerpts from an app titled ASKfm, where the cyber bullying begins and a website titled www.Slowphie.com , which attacks one of the main characters Sophie, heightens the story further. When I reached the conclusion of The Golden Child, I felt in shock, not only by the events in the novel, but the character twist that I was quite oblivious too, which gave the narrative another important layer. Wendy James has certainly produced a clever and thought provoking narrative.
In summary, The Golden Child, by Wendy James, had me pondering on its issues long after reading, making it a highly affective novel. It had me considering what challenges lay ahead of me as a parent, as my children move into the tween and teen category in a few years time. Along with the mothers in this story Andi and Beth, I too may be forced to confront issues of cyber bullying, peer pressure and the like, which is a scary thought. A tough one, yet a highly important read.
The Golden Child by Wendy James was published in January 2017 by Harper Collins Publishers Australia, details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
*Please note that a free copy of this book was provided to me for review purposes through Beauty and Lace. To read the original review on the Beauty and Lace website please visit here.