Reading this book was a little like trying to get a knot out of a necklace chain, it seems impossible to unravel, until suddenly one move loosens it and the whole thing unknots very quickly. Our central character, Nadja Kulka, was convicted for a terrible crime in her native Poland, many years ago. Now she’s out of prison she’s looking for the simple everyday things that others have: a job, a nice flat to live in and eventually a few friends. She just wants a ‘normal’ life. She does make one friend. Laura Von Hoven is her boss’s wife and a beautiful woman, who’s very free spirited. When she asks for Nadja’s help, of course she wants to give her friend a hand. However, Laura has killed someone and wants Nadja’s help to conceal the body. Nadja doesn’t feel like she can refuse, showing how her earlier trauma, from the original crime and punishment, has affected her emotionally. She’s full of anxiety, awkward with people and easily talked into bad ideas. Nadja isn’t a likeable character at first, there’s a stand-offish, prickly sort of manner she has that keeps people at a distance. Yet, underneath these defences, she’s vulnerable and naive. When they find the perfect place to hide the crime, an abandoned cabin in the woods, the rest seems easy. However, their seemingly simple plan falls apart and Nadja finds herself in a game of cat and mouse. It’s a deadly game and one that’s stacked against Nadja, because she’s the perfect murderer as well as a perfect victim.
I was very disorientated at first by the disparate strands of this complex thriller. We have three separate narratives, two different narrators plus a set of letters that don’t sound like they belong. I thought there were three different people here, because the author of the letters feels different to the others. Unlike her novel Dear Child, these separate threads feel a long way apart and it’s impossible to make them diverge into one clear narrative. I found the chopping and changing too ‘bitty’. I would pick it up after a break and found I couldn’t pick up the thread without going and re-reading previous pages. It was only when I read a good third of the book that I really started to make sense of the story and these narrative voices clicked into place. However, after sitting back and thinking, I wondered if this confusion wasn’t deliberate? Haussmann doesn’t strike me as a writer who makes mistakes, I think her plotting and structure are very deliberate, so what is she trying to telling the reader with this complicated beginning?
In retrospect, I feel that the author likes to manipulate and control her readers. She was giving us the same experience as her characters, like we’re in the centre of a complicated web waiting for a spider to strike. I was exasperated with certain characters here and there, but I found myself willing Nadja to come out of this okay, despite her past and her faults. My advice is to keep reading; things become clearer and after that prepare to set aside a whole evening to finish the story in one go. The pace quickens, increasing the tension and rushing us towards a conclusion. By this point I was intensely invested in the characters and how this would play out. I wasn’t disappointed and Hausmann kept a few final twists in reserve, that I didn’t expect. This isn’t an easy read at first, but it’s clever and psychologically astute. I loved trying to work out who had the upper hand in the web of lies. So in the end, this book firmly places Hausmann as a must read author for me.
Meet The Author
Romy Hausmann was born in the former GDR in 1981. At the age of twenty-four she became chief editor at a film production company in Munich. Since the birth of her son, Romy has been working as a freelancer in TV. Dear Child is her thriller debut. She lives with her family in a remote house in the woods near Stuttgart.