Sunday 27 July 2014

Living With It by Lizzie Enfield

One-year-old Iris is deaf. Her parents, Ben and Maggie, are devastated. So are their close friends Isobel and Eric.

Isobel knows that her decision, taken years ago, not to have her own children vaccinated against measles is to blame for Iris’s deafness. And Ben knows this too.
To make matters worse, Isobel is the woman he fell in love with in his twenties – the woman who married his best friend.
As he and Maggie start legal proceedings, Isobel’s world begins to unravel.

Living With It was published by Myriad Editions on 26 June 2014 and is Lizzie Enfield's third novel.

Lizzie Enfield has produced a cleverly woven story of family intricacies and the politics of friendship with the topical and controversial subject of the MMR vaccine.

When Ben and Maggie's small daughter Iris contracts measles from Isobel and Eric's teenage daughter Gabriella whilst on holiday in France, there is concern and worry. Isobel decided that her children would not have the MMR jab, therefore she knows that it's her fault that Iris is sick. After all, she knew that Gabriella's boyfriend had recently had measles, she knew that Gabriella's symptoms could also be measles, yet she went ahead and left Gabs with Iris and Maggie whilst everyone else went out and enjoyed their day.

Weeks later, Isobel and Eric learn that Iris is now deaf, she is deaf because she caught measles from Gabriella, and as far as everyone is concerned, she caught measles from Gabriella because Isobel didn't let her children have the MMR jab, and Isobel let Gabs and Iris spend time together.

Ben is angry, very very angry. He is determined that Isobel should pay the price and begins legal proceedings against Isobel and Eric.

Narrated in turn by Ben and Isobel, Living With It is an emotionally charged story that not only deals with the MMR controversy, but also looks at how past relationships can impact on current life. The fact that Ben and Isobel are ex-lovers and that Ben and Eric have been best friends since childhood causes even more difficulties for the main players in this story. The story is set over a few weeks and hearing the differing perspectives of Ben and Isobel during that time adds layers of speculation, distrust and a little bit of confusion for the reader. And that is not in a bad way at all, for me it made the story far more interesting.

My loyalties, as a reader, moved back and forth. I'd back Ben all the way, and then within a few pages, my sympathies would return to Isobel. Saying that, neither of these two characters were particularly likeable, hung up as they are with their own personal unresolved issues, as well as the tragedy of Iris' deafness.

Lizzie Enfield has created a vivid story with some interesting characters. I thought the children of the story were the best by far. Isobel's two sons are quirky and funny and really stole the whole novel.

A great story of modern family life, of mixed-up relationships with a cracker of an end chapter that may just turn the story completely on it's head for you.

Many thanks to Emma from Myriad Editions who sent my copy for review.

Lizzie Enfield is the author of two previous novels, What You Don't Know and Uncoupled, both published by Headline. She has a column in The Oldie and is a regular contributor to The Guardian and other national newspapers and magazines. Her short stories have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and appeared in various magazines. She lives in Brighton with her husband and three children.

For more information visit her website

Follow her on Twitter @lizzieenfield

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