Because of You by Dawn French – the intense strength of women

Because of You by Dawn French

This is a deeply felt book of one of the strongest emotions on earth, the love of parents for their child, specifically mothers. When two girls are born into a new millennium, no one could predict the paths their mothers were now on.  This is a contemporary look at how women react to events that threaten to overwhelm them. Whether affluent and well resourced, or living in a tiny flat, both women discover love and loss, and have to sort out a new way to live. With shocks and surprises en route, the author looks at the costs of motherhood and the relationships that can surround it and the families which are created and potentially sustained by the arrival of a child. With a near forensic eye for the way that people react to the unimaginable, the author has set up and explored situations which anyone would struggle with in the telling details of dialogue and characters which seem to take on their own lives. Some humour, some darkness and genuine emotions are displayed by realistic characters which range from a young student to an image obsessed politician, a hospital cleaner to a woman with seemingly unlimited resources. From the naturally intuitive to the completely dense, there are characters in this novel who transcend their time, their motives being more complex than can be easily explained. This is a moving novel which upsets and rebuilds in so many ways and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it. 

Two couples are in delivery rooms of a London hospital. One woman is in labour with a much awaited child, as Anna is desperate for a baby to give her a purpose as she is tiring of being the appallingly self centred Julius’ wife. A midwife realizes as she tries to shove him and his camcorder out of the way “It was evident that no one could love Julius more than Julius loved himself”. As the events of the next twenty four hours, and indeed the next seventeen years unfold, it transpires that her assessment is correct. Anna will struggle, in a different way from the physical pain she is experiencing now, but will maintain her dignity and more throughout. Of the other couple, Hope is a determined young woman who is proud of her work as a hospital cleaner, for whom “This baby is a happy surprise”. Her partner, Quiet Isaac, is reacting a completely different way, whispering encouraging words. The two couples are polar opposites in their relationships, their dreams for their daughters. When catastrophic events overtake them, their different reactions speak so much of the people they are, and who they will become.

This is a powerful novel which provides some deeply emotional moments as the intensity of mother love is revealed. It is not only the four protagonists who have to cope and move on with their lives, but those around them who are variously surprised and moved by the situations of the women. This is a book of strong women whose strength is destined to be shown in different ways with rare intensity. The characters, the settings and the lively dialogue all contribute to an amazing reading experience.