Let's see: Sally, the heroine of the book really doesn't like her kids all that much from time to time. She feels trapped by them, suffocated by their needs and although husband Nick helps out, he's not so hot with the details or the planning.
But she's completely outdone by another woman in The Wrong Mother, the one who lets her young daughter scream out her fear of monsters in a dark bedroom, and who drives away from a 3-year-old to teach her a lesson about obedience and getting along with mummy.
And half the time, you can't tell who is doing the talking. Is this Sally descending into awfulness, or someone else? And why do the British go on having children if they don't seem to like them very much? Oh and yes, there's dead bodies.
"I write quite twisty books," says Sophie Hannah, the British author in town to speak at Murder By the Book at 6:30 tonight about her latest murder mystery. Twisty, uncomfortable from time to time, but ultimately rewarding. And books that hit close to home because as all parents know -- even the best -- kids can be snots and even if you love them, it's kind of hard to like them all the time.
Speaking by phone to Hair Balls, Hannah, who also wrote the international best seller Little Face says she got the idea for The Wrong Mother when her children were very young, at six months and 18 months, and each of them kept her up all night every night. She grew depressed at the idea that she was never going to get a complete night's sleep again.
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So she decided to be honest about the mixed feelings a mother can have about her children and checked into how much writing had been done in novels on the subject. Most of what she found was chick lit, so she decided there was plenty of room to go into it in her genre of murder mysteries.
Although she never felt quite as bad about her children or acted nearly as badly as the most evil character in this book, there were other points in her story that are reflected in the novel. For instance, a work trip that she was counting on to get a break from her home responsibilities was almost canceled and she determined at that moment that if it was, she wouldn't tell her husband and would go off on a week's vacation by herself. In real life, Hannah's trip wasn't canceled. But in the book, Sally's is, and she goes off on her secret holiday and becomes involved with a man there that leads to terrible consequences.
And Sally's husband Nick is directly patterned on Hannah's own spouse. Although, she says, her husband is much better than Nick now and "doesn't get away with anything."
For these and other insights that went into putting together her book, make it out to Murder By the Book tonight to hear Hannah speak about matching murder and mystery to the lives of the middle and upper middle class in Britain. But you might not want to take the kids.