Book review: The Perfect Child by Lucinda Berry

I was attracted to this book by the cover and was intrigued by the title so couldn’t wait to see if it matched my expectations.

The story’s about a couple who adopt a traumatised child believing they can give her a happy home and help make up for her appalling start in life. However, six year-old Janie turns out to be anything but the perfect child and a master at divide-and-rule. While Hannah is on the receiving end of Janie’s rage, Christopher remains unaware and increasingly concerned about his wife’s mental state. Can Hannah make him see what’s really going on before it’s too late?

First off, this is not a book I’d recommend to anyone thinking of adopting!

I found it a dark, disturbing and compulsive read, bordering on horror.

The story’s told in several viewpoints – Hannah, Christopher and the social worker, Piper. Although given their medical experience the couple seem rather naive, it’s easy to imagine the awful situation in which they find themselves, torn between wanting to get help but not wanting to admit they can’t cope, not wanting to lose Janie or damage her further by letting her down. Janie’s behaviour is truly disturbing, and all the more so when you discover that Dr Lucinda Berry is a trauma psychologist and researcher in childhood trauma.

I had such a feeling of helplessness watching Hannah try to handle the child’s behaviour while also trying to save her marriage and questioning her own sanity while trying to get support from the one person whose support she should be able to count on.

I felt frustrated by Christopher’s inability – or refusal – to see that he was being manipulated and was reminded of the relationship in We Need to Talk About Kevin.

As the tension among the family builds some decisions are made which have a horrible inevitability about them and lead up to devastating outcomes.

Although the ending left some questions unanswered, this is a powerful read which I’d recommend to fans of visceral psychological thrillers.

The Perfect Child is published by Thomas & Mercer, Amazon’s publishing unit.

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