Book review: Blame by Nicole Trope

Saturday, July 2, 2016 Permalink

Nicole Trope’s 2015 novel Hush Little Bird was the first I’d read by the Australian author. It was incredibly timely – the subject matter reflecting some popular cases of child sexual abuse involving celebrities and vulnerable children.

Trope’s latest novel is quite different, but still focuses on families, friends and relationships. And it again highlights the vulnerable.

Book review: Blame by Nicole TropeBlame
by Nicole Trope
Published by Allen & Unwin
on June 22nd 2016
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Literary Fiction
Pages: 320

Caro and Anna are best friends... they were best friends.
Over a decade, Caro and Anna have bonded while raising their daughters, two little girls the same age but living two very different lives. The women have supported each other as they have shared the joys and trials of motherhood, but now everything has changed.

There's been a terrible car accident, an unimaginable tragedy that leaves both families devastated. Over two days as Caro and Anna each detail their own versions of events, they are forced to reveal hidden truths and closely guarded secrets.

The complicated lives of wives and mothers are laid bare as both women come to realise that even best friends don't tell each other everything. And when hearts are broken, even best friends need someone to blame.

The accident’s already taken place when we meet Anna and Caro. It’s a fortnight later and both women have been called to the local police station to give formal statements.

Both are suspicious. Both know others consider them to blame for the accident which resulted in a death. And both are dealing with guilt in their own way.

Anna is in mourning. She’s numb. She’s devastated. And she’s angry. We quickly learn the anger’s been building for a long time and we’re taken back to the birth of her daughter Maya – later diagnosed with autism.

Motherhood has been a battle for Anna. Maya is severely autistic, doesn’t speak and has become increasingly violent. She’s only 12 but Anna feels like she’s looking down the barrel of a gun.

There was no more hope. There was on the reality of her life, this reality, this reality forever.

… She would be tied to her child, her damaged child, until she, Anna, died. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t thought these things before but it was the first time she understood them as the absolute truth. There was no way out and no way forward. pp 166-167

Anna spent a long time after Maya’s birth wondering who’s to blame for her daughter’s autism… feeling the need to identify who carried the faulty gene; the need to point the finger.

Despite this, Anna pulls herself together every day and operates as a tightly-wound highly-dedicated mother.

Caro’s daugter Lex is everything Anna wanted Maya to be. But Caro’s suffered a number of miscarriages and her marriage is in trouble. She’s started drinking heavily and even Lex is pushing her away.

For over a decade Anna and Caro have relied on each other, but now that’s gone. Instead – in the aftermath of the accident – they’re pointing the finger at their former best friend.

When we meet Anna she’s determined to be helpful. To be nice. Caro on the other hand, is grudgingly cooperative in her police interview. Prickly and hungover she’s beligerent and angry.

The lives of Anna, Caro and their families are told through flashbacks during the interviews. Slowly Trope offers up glimpses of how they came to be sitting in a police station.

This book unfolds as a bit of a mystery but the underlying theme is very obviously one of blame. (And guilt.) I was reminded of Brene Brown’s work about our need to ‘blame’ and how we often overlook its opposite, empathy.

This is an enjoyable read, offering up some interesting insight and a twist or two; and Trope proves herself to consistently deliver thought-provoking fodder for her readers.

Blame by Nicole Trope was published in Australia by Allen and Unwin and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.


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