Perfect Little Children by Sophie Hannah
Published: February 4, 2020 by William Morrow
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Synopsis: All Beth has to do is drive her son to his Under-14s away match, watch him play, and bring him home.
Just because she knows her ex-best friend lives near the football ground, that doesn’t mean she has to drive past her house and try to catch a glimpse of her. Why would Beth do that, and risk dredging up painful memories? She hasn’t seen Flora for twelve years. She doesn’t want to see her today, or ever again.
But she can’t resist. She parks outside the open gates of Newnham House, watches from across the road as Flora and her children Thomas and Emily step out of the car. Except… There’s something terribly wrong. Flora looks the same, only older. As Beth would have expected. It’s the children. Twelve years ago, Thomas and Emily were five and three years old. Today, they look precisely as they did then.
They are still five and three. They are Thomas and Emily without a doubt – Beth hears Flora call them by their names – but they haven’t changed at all.
They are no taller, no older… Why haven’t they grown?
Review: I had quite the journey with this book. Through the first two hours of the audiobook I felt like I was being tortured and interrogated. The entire portion was almost entirely a repeat of “I definitely know what I saw, but it’s impossible, I couldn’t have seen that. But I know I did!” For two hours. I felt like crying in exasperation. At a certain point you just have to accept that you saw something that doesn’t make sense!
Then things started to pick up and I was glad that I hadn’t given up on it. Beth was investigating and running into more things that didn’t make sense. Pieces started falling into place in her head and in mine. I also loved her daughter Zannah. She was so sarcastic and ruthlessly logical. I was so happy when Beth enlisted her help in investigating the mystery because she was amazing. I also enjoyed learning little tidbits about their past relationship with Flora and Louis. What had it been like being their friend all those years ago? Did it shed any light on the situation occurring now? I was fascinated.
I didn’t like how Beth acted like her husband was trying to “mansplain” to her and treating her like she was a hysterical woman though. I mean, Beth was literally stalking two strangers. Following them to their children’s school. Getting into their unlocked car when they stepped away. Going to their home to interrogate their neighbors. Interrogate the school receptionist about their children. He wasn’t wrong (or sexist) to treat her like she was behaving hysterically, she was!
But ultimately, like any book, it comes down to the ending.
SPOILER ALERT!! Spoilers for the ending.
The ending literally made no sense. I had come up with all kinds of options in my head. Obviously since this book had no shades of the paranormal, the children were not the same two children. They were two different children, with the same names and approximate ages of the children Beth had known.
But all of my theories were wrong, instead it was so stupid that I still can’t believe it went there. Louis and Flora had a third child, Georgina, which we learn early on. Louis didn’t like Georgina because she had an eye problem. So he became horribly abusive to Flora, deeming the medical condition to be her fault because she had gotten pregnant after he told her that he didn’t want more children. Louis drugs Flora and then kills Georgina and convinces Flora that she had gotten drunk and rolled over on the baby and smothered her. In order for him not to turn her in for murder, she agrees to cut off all contact with the children and pretend to go away forever. But he occasionally visits to rape and impregnate her against her will and insist that she name the children the same names as their existing children. He’s even hired someone to pretend to be her new husband and keep her in line.
I mean, really? It was all an abusive husband, trying to make his wife miserably because she gave birth to a cross-eyed baby? That was so incredibly stupid that I just couldn’t get past it. It didn’t matter how compelling the middle of the book was because it flubbed it when it matter.