Meet the Newells, a big Northern family of good lookers and hard grafters, with brains and diligence to spare. From their sleepy working class backwater, the siblings break into Oxford academia, London’s high life, the glossy world of magazine publishing and the stratospheric riches of New York’s hedge funds.
But there’s a wrong’un in their midst, who prefers life’s dark underbelly.
1960s Lincolnshire: Patrick aka Paddy Newell is born to the unmarried teenage Edie. She is forced to release him into care, and soon afterwards marries the soft-hearted George. They immediately start a family, and Edie has baby after baby trying to replace the one she has lost. Then a miracle. A sympathetic social worker gives them a chance to adopt Paddy when he is five years old. But the damage is done.
How can Edie turn a blind eye to her son’s malevolence? Why does she stand by and watch while he wrecks the lives of her other children? How much is she willing to sacrifice for him? What is the true reason behind her marriage breakdown? Why does she resent her only daughter, her youngest child, so much?
Modern Day London: Edie’s daughter, Bea, is suddenly widowed after undergoing IVF treatment with her beloved husband, David. His body is hardly cold when her glamorous Brazilian cleaner, Lorena, claims she is pregnant with David’s child, and is willing to submit to a DNA test to prove it.
What has Paddy got to do with Lorena? What does he have planned for his sister? What will it take for him to leave her alone?
The narrative unfolds between 1960s/70s Lincolnshire and modern day London. The novel is concerned with family, the true nature of parenthood, sibling rivalry, secrets, lies, self-deception and the origin of evil.
I’m just an old bat now, so it doesn’t matter what I think, but I can tell you. Things were never the same between me and George after Bea was born. To have a girl after so many boys. ‘Oh, you must be thrilled!’ people said. People don’t know what they’re on about half the time.
We started our family straight off. He’d sooner have waited, but there was no stopping me. I was twenty-two when Sammy arrived. Sonny came hot on his heels, and was barely three months old when I found out Will was on his way. It was hard, those early days, George scratching a living at Jebsen’s Yard before he set up on his own. There never was any question of me working. Not with two little ones and a third waiting to burst in on the world. Another man would have torn his hair out.
Paddy came to us just before Will was born. He was beautiful. Like a Botticelli angel. He was five years old when we got him. I’ll never make up for those five years. Fair, he was, when the rest of us were dark. He was different in other ways. You know kids. Needy, always looking for attention. Not Paddy. I tried so hard with him. To read him a story or play a game. Paddy liked to look at books by himself and didn’t get excited about games. He was just more self-sufficient, more independent. The only person he was interested in was George, and George didn’t know what to do with him.
I still feel a lurch in my heart when I think about the one we lost. Timmy. I used to panic I’d forget his little face, but I never will. They didn’t want me to be the one to dress him for his burial. They said it would be too upsetting for a woman in my condition. Colin was on the way by then, you see, but who else should have dressed him if not his own mother? I don’t remember much about that time. I went through the rest of the pregnancy in a dark fog. Colin was the smallest of our babies. Forced out early by grief and shock. He helped us to heal. It sounds like we forgot about our Timmy once we had a new baby, but I swear it’s not true. Colin was supposed to be our last.
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