“I wished I lived in a world where I didn’t know violence intimately, but I’d seen more than my fair share, given the work I did.”
Published in 2019, The Perfect Child by Lucinda Berry follows happily married Christopher and Hannah who have picture-perfect lives. All that’s missing is a child. When Janie, an abandoned six-year-old, turns up at their hospital, Christopher forms an instant connection with her, and he convinces Hannah they should take her home as their own.
But Janie is no ordinary child, and her damaged psyche proves to be more than her new parents were expecting. Janie is fiercely devoted to Christopher, but she acts out in increasingly disturbing ways, directing all her rage at Hannah. Unable to bond with Janie, Hannah is drowning under the pressure, and Christopher refuses to see Janie’s true nature. As Janie’s behaviour threatens to tear Christopher and Hannah apart, the truth behind Janie’s past may be enough to push them all over the edge.
A disturbing but utterly captivating dark thriller, The Perfect Child is an immensely gripping and unnervingly dark exploration of childhood trauma, post-partum mental health, and the difficulties of early parenthood.
Told through three perspectives – husband Christopher, wife Hannah, and their social worker Piper – you get to see the story from every angle: the good, the bad, and the outsider point of view. With such varying versions, you take each narrative with a pinch of salt, eager to find out who’s story is most accurate and what’s really going on behind closed doors.
It’s such an original concept and although I’ve read many books this year about nature vs. nurture, Berry brings so much more to the table with her story. A combination of a child recovering from a trauma with some brutally honest conversations around the hardships of motherhood, I loved the balance of the extreme and the relatable.
I really felt for Hannah’s character and especially loved the conversations around breastfeeding, as I’ve experienced firsthand how your mind can play tricks on you from the pure exhaustion of nonstop feeds. Berry uses these common experiences of the struggles in the newborn weeks in a brilliant way, making you question whether Janie is really being this cruel or if Hannah’s mental health is suffering from post-natal issues.
The story could have gone either way, but I absolutely love the direction that it takes. As a debut book, it’s just exceptional, and I highly recommend you read this one if you like your thrillers dark.
The audiobook is narrated by Christine Williams, Erin Bennett, and John Miller. Giving each character a different voice makes the interchanging narratives much easier to follow. Each do a brilliant job of narrating their section and together they really engaged me in the story, making me sympathise with each point of view and eager to see how everything comes apart.