Opening with an intense and disturbing prologue, The Only Child is a cracking story of past lives, secrets, evil and crime.
It’s swirling with red herrings, hints and twists. These have the reader believing any one of the characters could have carried out the murder of an elderly nun in a nursing home.
Add in themes of history, the Church, family and relationships and Kayte Nunn’s story is both gripping and affecting.
The descriptions of the young mothers and their babies are especially emotional.
Kayte Nunn’s exploration of how unmarried mothers were treated is not only realistic and disturbingly true, it infuriates the reader that society behaved as it did.
The story really gets under the reader’s skin. There’s an increased poignancy as Frankie regains a relationship with her daughter Izzy. This throws into greater relief the loss felt by the young girls of the past.
Complex themes woven through the story
The Only Child is a crime thriller. However simply defining it that way belies the complexities of relationships, the social history and the sheer humanity woven through the story.
I thought the structure was elegant and perfectly pitched. The connections between Fairmile of 1949 and Fairmile of 2013 grow throughout the narrative and bring the threads of the story together.
There are iterative images that create a feeling of danger and suspense in both time frames. As The Only Child raced to its conclusion, I found my pulse rate increased.
What constitutes right and wrong?
Whilst the plot is fast-paced and exciting, Kayte Nunn also affords time for the reader to contemplate society’s norms, grief, loss and the extent to which nothing is ever entirely clear cut.
I loved the way the story made me consider what constitutes right and wrong. Sometimes, too, the guilty are as much victims as the innocent.
This is a book about humanity and about how the past never quite leaves us.
There’s a brilliant spectrum of people to encounter. Izzy is such a convincing teenager and I entirely empathised with Frankie as she juggled motherhood and friendship with her daughter.
A relatable woman in the middle
She’s very much a relatable woman in the middle, suppressing her own feelings to support others. I loathed Sister Agatha, and loved the way Joe counterbalanced the more negative men encountered in the narrative.
The Only Child is entertaining, enjoyable and exciting. It’s also brilliantly researched, sensitive and thought-provoking, making it a must read. I thoroughly enjoyed it.