Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Chergui's Child by Jane Riddell - Book Review

Chergui's Child by Jane Riddell is a story about Olivia, a 30-something year-old woman, who is saddened by her aunt's passing but surprised to know that her daughter, from a pregnancy a few years back, is in fact alive.

"Through the glass panel, diminished as if a magician had shrunk her body, lay my aunt, her hair, nightdress, everything colourless, like the bleached hospital bedding."

Olivia's aunt leaves her a significant fortune on condition that she goes to search for her daughter.

Chergui's Child has a strong opening with a death of loved relative and a revelation from the early pages of chapter one.

I liked the contrasts in family relationships between Olivia and her brother, Martin, and Olivia and her father on one hand, and Olivia and her mother on the other. Both Olivia and Martin call their mother by her first name, Nora, and neither seem to have any deep emotions towards her.

"My inheritance would further fuel her anger, as if past disappointments weren't enough. [My father] would bear the brunt, of course – he always did. An urge overcame me to whisk him and Martin away from this room of restricted behaviours."

There are flashbacks from when Olivia was in love with her professor, Richie, whom we later know is the father of her child. However, these are narrated in a matter-of-fact sort of way, distancing the reader from the characters.

The book is said to span the London, France and Morocco.

I stopped reading at 50%, where the book had only moved in London and France, but the pace became too slow for me. By 50%, the reader still hasn't met the daughter.

I disliked Olivia and found her to be very selfish, particularly in the fact that she was the second woman to Richie, who was already married. While I did not finish the book to be able to highlight character development, I felt the first half was slow and disliked the main character.

There were many beautiful lines and images in the novel and I liked Riddell's overall writing style, but those were not enough to prompt me to continue reading Chergui's Child (which is long overdue).

(Note: I received a review copy of Chergui's Child from author Jane Riddell in exchange for an honest review).

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