Title: Little Deaths * Arthur: Emma Flint * Genre : Historical Fiction/Mystery.
Publisher: Hachette Books * Pages : 311 * Verdict : Buy it
This is the first book I have read off the longlist of the Baileys women’s prize for fiction 2017. The Prize is the UK’s most prestigious award for fiction written by women. If you want to learn more about this prize I highly recommend their website.
Little Deaths takes place in New York (Queen’s) in the sixties. In the beginning of the story we are introduced to Ruth Malone who is in prison. The story then take us into the past and we learn exactly why Ruth is in prison.
We learn that Ruth is separated from her husband Frank, who is threatening to sue for custody of their two children Frankie and Cindy. Ruth is not your definition of mother of the year, she drinks to much, and brings home different men.
Tragedy strikes Ruth when both of her kids goes missing from their apartment. Eventually the police end up finding the kids but both of them are dead. Due to her life style the police automatically assume that its Ruth that had murdered them.
The story is told in two perspectives. One from Ruth, and the other from Peter Wonicke who is a reporter for the local newspaper. At first Peter thinks that Ruth has done it, but then he changes his mind. He then starts to develop a romantic obsession for her as the story progresses.
Before reading this, I heard a lot of negative things about this book. I am glad that I decided to go ahead and give this book a chance. I loved it. It took me about a week to get through this.
I can easily see why this was nominated for the Baileys women prize.
I am not sure why this book has been labeled a thriller? Yes there are some dark aspects in the story, but it doesn’t read as a thriller.
I like how the story is told from two perspectives. At first I was not really thrilled by Pete’s character. I’m still not, but after thinking about I think he was there to shine light on other people’s perspective of Ruth and the situation.
This story was more then just two kids disappearing and the police suspecting that the mother did it. Though this was based on a real life case.
I think this story is all about perceptions and how we see people. And how people see us. Either fairly or unfairly. I think that people have a preconceived notion of how people should act based on their in role in life. Like if your mother, woman, grandmother, father etc. And when people don’t fit in that particular mold then we tend to look negatively at them and judge them. Just like the police and some of Ruth’s neighbors in this story did.
The head detective (Devilin ) even pointed that even if Ruth was innocent it wouldn’t matter because she was not acting like a mother should, which got her kids killed.
There was also an undercurrent of sexism and misogyny throughout the story.
Ruth is vilified because she likes to drink and go out with men. But Frank (Ruth husband) is seen in a sympathetic light. Though he hardly paid his child support, and barely there in helping Ruth rear the children. So much of the responsibility of raising the children was left up to Ruth.
I think that the biggest take away I got from this book is looks can be deceiving.
Not everything is how it appears to be. In the book, Ruth was condemned for not grieving for her children. As you read you can clearly see that this is not true. But we are looking at it from Ruth perspective and not from an outsider who doesn’t know her.
One of things I liked about this book is that at the end Ruth comes to realize that though she didn’t kill her children, she should have done more protect them. Plus, I think she realizes that she doesn’t have to be dependent on a man to protect her. She can do that herself.
I really liked this book, I highly recommend it.