‘Fractured’ by Dawn Barker

I’ve read a handful of books in the past year about mothers under immense mental strain (notably I Came to Say Goodbye, Ten Days and The Mother’s Group).

Fractured, the debut novel by Dawn Barker adds to this list. And I have to ask myself why, why do I keep torturing myself with these grim stories? I spent the last forty-odd pages of this book in tears!

Fractured is the story of Tony and Anna, a young married couple with a new baby, Jack. As you may have guessed by the title, it’s not all happy families. Tony is worried. Anna doesn’t seem to be coping with newborn Jack.  One moment she’s crying, the next she seems almost too positive. What happens next is heart-breaking.

It’s difficult to talk about Fractured without revealing an important part of the plot. The book blurb cleverly hints at what happens without giving anything away and after reading the first fifty pages, I was stunned – the story didn’t go in the direction I had anticipated. I sincerely hope that other reviewers don’t spoil this book for readers by revealing the key plot point.

Barker alternates chapters of the story between the present and the past (the past being the days immediately before and after Jack’s birth). By the end of the book, the timelines ‘meet’, giving the reader a full understanding of how events unfolded. In some books, this approach can be choppy however Barker makes it work with lots of suspense along the way. The net result was that I was often tempted to skip ahead to see what happens.

As you may have guessed from the blurb, an important element of this story is postnatal depression. Barker captures the joys and anguish felt by new mothers extremely well in the character of Anna. However, more interestingly, much of the story is told from the perspective of Tony and both of the grandmothers. I certainly remember when I had my first baby the sudden and overwhelming feeling of being permanently attached to (and responsible for) another person. As Tony says –

“All I thought I’d have to worry about when we had kids was not being able to go out and get pissed on a Saturday night, or have a weekend at the snow.”

Once you’re a parent, you realise that these kind of worries on a scale of one to hundred are about 0.5.

There weren’t many down points to Fractured. If I was to be picky, I’d say some sections were a little drawn out while some of the sub-plots weren’t introduced early enough to hook me in. Secondly, Barker’s writing style is fine but not particularly memorable. I do tend to get caught up in beautiful sentences, marking bits in books. I didn’t really do that in my copy of Fractured (perhaps because I was too busy racing through it or crying?!).

3.5/5  It was gripping. And harrowing.

In the story, Anna and Tony dine on Caprese salad. In my opinion, Caprese salad is salad perfection. Here is a twist on the classic by Jamie Oliver – Caprese Salad with Grilled Peppers.


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