Little Disasters by Sarah Vaughan
Simon & Schuster 2020. ISBN: 9781471194900.
The excerpt from Silvia Plath's poem "Morning Song" introduces us to the world of a new mother, the stresses of which are emphatically described in the prologue; the detached narrator observing the mother wish her inconsolable child "to be silent always" p4. The story revolves around a group of women who met at a 2007 antenatal class, from the point of view of Liz, a senior registrar in paediatrics at a London hospital, and Jess, the stay at home wife of a hedge funds manager. The timeline flits between significant dates, reaching back to when the women met but starting at January 19th 2018 when Jess turns up at the hospital with baby Betsey who has a fractured skull. As the injury does not match the explanation Jess gives as to how it happened, Liz alerts the senior consultant who in turn decides Social Services need to be alerted. The resulting inquiry challenges the women's friendship and Liz's professional judgement and involves their wider circle of mothers making judgements about each other.
Other aspects of the women's lives emerge as the truth of the matter is pursued including how they were mothered, earlier relationships and the tension between stay at home mothers and those who work. At times the timeline was hard to follow and the complication of the Charlotte character at the end was unnecessary but this is a book for young women who seem to thrive on judging other women and their life choices. I found it difficult to accept the failure of those around Jess to recognise her need for psychological support, maybe readers will be made more alert. Lovers of women's fiction and domestic drama will enjoy this book.