Monday 30 November 2020

The Push by Ashley Audrain @audrain #ThePush @MichaelJBooks @lcnicol #BookReview #Debuts2021


'The women in this family, we're different . . .'

Blythe Connor doesn't want history to repeat itself.

Violet is her first child and she will give her daughter all the love she deserves. All the love that her own mother withheld.

But firstborns are never easy. And Violet is demanding and fretful. She never smiles. Soon Blythe believes she can do no right - that something's very wrong. Either with her daughter, or herself.

Her husband, Fox, says she's imagining it. But Violet's different with him. And he can't understand what Blythe suffered as a child. No one can.

Blythe wants to be a good mother. But what if that's not enough for Violet? Or her marriage? What if she can't see the darkness coming?

Mother and daughter. Angel or monster?

We don't get to choose our inheritance - or who we are . . .

The Push by Ashley Audrain is published on 7 January 2021 by Michael Joseph. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

This is a dark, bleak, emotional read. I have never given birth, I am not a mother, or a step-mother, and to be very honest, after reading this story, I have absolutely no regrets about my life choice! 
Readers who may be thinking about starting a family, or may be new mothers themselves may want to think hard about what they are about to read. Remember, this is fiction, it's not a true-life account of being a mother, but it really is magnificently done. 

Audrain has chosen an unusual style of story telling; with her main narrator telling the story to another lead player, it's a little difficult to adjust to, but once you are in, you are consumed by the narrative, it's very beautifully structured.

Blythe and Fox are a young couple with dreams. Blythe's childhood was difficult. Her mother Cecilia lacked the maternal instinct and Blythe just longed to be loved, she dreamt of having a mother like those of her friends. Nestled within Blythe's own story, the author includes snippets from Cecila's life, and that of her own mother Etta, and it is here that the reader realises just how damaged these women were.

When Blythe gives birth to daughter Violet, her determination to become the mother that she never had is strong. However, Violet isn't the child that she dreamt of, and the bond that everyone told her would be natural seems to be missing. As Blythe struggles with daily feeding and constant exhaustion, she becomes fearful of expressing her feelings to Fox. Fox is the perfect Daddy; a doting and loving father to Violet who clearly adores him. Blythe feels like a failure, Violet isn't what she dreamt of.

Audrain's use of words to describe Blythe's first year of motherhood are brutally honest. I flinched as I read about the cracked, bleeding nipples and the ever growing exhaustion. I'm probably in the minority here, but I had nothing but sympathy for Blythe, I despaired of Fox and his sunny outlook and dismissal of Blythe's attempts to explain herself. 
When their second child is born, a son called Sam, Blythe discovers that she does have that motherly love .. she adores Sam, she cannot get enough of him, but what about Violet? 

I won't go further into the plot as that would spoil the story, but I can promise you that this one will tear at your heart. Audrain poses many questions within her novel. There's the question of nature versus nuture, and the taboo issue of can a mother love one of her children far more than the other. Or, can a mother actually hate their own child? 

The Push is a vivid and often disturbing novel that is filled with suspense. The characters are created with care and compassion, they are flawed and they make choices that are often stunning, but they are human and so realistic. There are scenes that are almost impossible to read without having the put the book down for a moment and reflect, provoking thoughts and questions that are some of the most difficult to deal with. 

The Push is unsettling, but astonishing and compelling at the same time. It's a book that will linger for a long time after the final page is turned. It's a book that, whilst reading, you can make guesses about what will happen, and the anticipation of these events is quite breathtaking. 

This book haunted my dreams whilst I was reading it and has continued to linger in the corners of my mind. It is an exceptional debut novel. Raw and honestly brutal. Highly recommended. 

Ashley Audrain began writing The Push after leaving her job as publicity director at Penguin Books
Canada to raise her two young children.
The experience of being a new mother inspired Ashley to write about the idea of motherhood and expectations, and what happens if that experience turns out to be nothing like it's supposed to be.

At Penguin, Audrain worked with bestselling authors including Khaled Hosseini, Elizabeth Gilbert and Meg Wolitzer. Prior to Penguin, she worked at a global public relations agency in consumer marketing.

Twitter @audrain

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