Monday, 28 March 2016

Emma's Review: Waiting for You by Catherine Miller

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

You’d never guess that Fliss Chapron doesn’t have it all

All Fliss wants is to see two blue lines telling her she is pregnant with her much longed for second baby. But as the negative tests stack up, dreams of completing her perfect family feel more hopeless every day.

After years of disappointment, Fliss’s husband Ben is spending more time at the office than in their marital bed, and Fliss finds herself wondering who could be responsible for their inability to conceive another child. Yet, where do you lay the blame when it comes to having a child – and can anyone really be at fault…

As Ben becomes increasingly distant, Fliss begins to question whether her desire for a baby is just a sticking plaster to save her marriage. Because in the end, how well can you ever know another person…even the man you’re married to?

Amazon link: Kindle

Waiting for You is the début novel from Catherine Miller, a story focusing on secrets, marriage and motherhood. A book which questions how well do we know the people closest to us and what happens when doubt starts creeping into our minds? Fliss aged 41 is mother to Sophie 6 and believes she is happily married to Ben. I say believes because up until now things have been good between herself and the man she loves but now that she wants a second child things aren't all that rosy. Fliss has a deep longing for a second child and despite her age she wants a brother or sister for Sophie and another child for her to care for and love. Ben is not so sure, he is happy with the way things are and doesn't feel the need to bring a second child into their lives. But Fliss is a determined woman and once the call of motherhood is beckoning it is an urge that cannot be quashed. She is going to do anything to have her way even if it does mean she may have to lie to her husband at some point. Ben works away from home in London during the week while Fliss remains at home in a small cottage on the Kent coast with Sophie. This arrangement seems to suit the family as they wanted a nice place to bring up their daughter away from the hustle and bustle of city life. But as Ben begins to spend more and more time in London Fliss questions was this move such a good idea? Especially now that she wants a second child which really can't happen if Ben spends so much time away from home.

Waiting for You presents the reader with lots of questions of which hardly any of them have an easy answer to. You have to ask yourself if you were placed in the situation the characters find themselves in would you react in the same way? Would you have a definitive answer or would the quandary make you even more unable to seek an answer? I can't say I agreed with all of Fliss' actions initially and she was a character who I changed my opinion about several times over. Fliss' desire for a second child drives her to an online forum for women trying to conceive again. It's a place where she can let all her emotions out and seek advice from people. She feels the virtual friends she meets support her even more so than Ben. Online she meets Ange a mother to three boys and who now desperately wants a girl. Ange encourages Fliss to sign up to a documentary which will follow the women on their journey to conceive the child they long for. I did think this was very far fetched, yes I acknowledge there are heaps of reality TV shows out there at the moment and there probably is a programme with this subject matter in existence but did it need to be in this book? Also Fliss was going even further against her husbands wishes and if he knew what she had signed up to bringing his personal business into public life that would have made him even more against another child. 'Ben often commented on how she should concentrate on the daughter they did have, not become obsessed by something that may never happen'. So if Ben thinks this already I could only imagine what was going through his mind about being exposed on a TV show.

Fliss from the outset is very headstrong, ambitious and strong minded. I didn't like the fact she was going against her husbands wishes to stay happy with the family they had. I did question for a short while whether at her age should she have just been happy with Sophie but then on reflection a woman is entitled to become a mother at any stage if they possibly can to give unconditional love to a human being. Should she though have accepted maybe it wasn't going to happen naturally for her and go down another route which might have made Ben more open to another child? Or another question remains should Fliss be content with the daughter she already has? So many questions and that is one aspect of the book that is very strong in the way so many questions are thrown up of which every reader will have their own opinion. That's what what would make this book a good choice for a bookclub as it would be sure to create many discussions and opportunities for people to offer their viewpoints.  Just for the questions alone are the reasons I would select for a bookclub despite not enjoying the book entirely. Maybe Ben was just worried about Fliss' health and what she would have to go through. I felt we never really got inside Ben's head to really understand his whole thought process and why he was so against something which would have brought more happiness into their lives. Happiness and that little bit of sparkle and joy that seem to be missing now that Ben is away so much.

As Fliss embarks upon the TV series she meets Leon Stevens who is assistant producer for the programme, he is there when Ben is not. Leon is someone she can talk to in person about how she is feeling faced with possible infertility problems and a husband who won't agree to another child or can't face up to the idea that there are underlying issues. Talking to Leon becomes therapeutic for Fliss but at the same time I didn't want to her to give up on Ben. I can see why she chose to confide in Leon as there really was no one else outside of her marriage in whom she could trust. Talking online is all well and good but sometimes face to face and a shoulder to cry on is what is most needed. I think this quote really sums up Fliss' feelings on the whole matter and helps the reader gain a deeper insight into her heart and mind. 'Most of it is down to maternal instinct. Ever since Hollie was little I knew I wanted to do it again. It's that special bond you create with that little person knowing the depend entirely on you and trust you implicitly'. 

I did like the character of Leon he seemed to be the complete opposite of Ben and could be a rock in times of need. His own storyline was interesting and reaffirmed for me what a kind, caring and loving person he could be. Soon he asks Fliss to put her interior design skills to good use in doing up his flat. Despite the fact I said I liked Leon I did think was Fliss venturing down a road best not trodden in agreeing to do the work for Leon. Was Fliss just flattered that another man is showing vague signs of interest in her when it's really her husbands love and attention she is craving so she can complete her family? But a question remains does having a second child cure problems emerging in a marriage? Can a baby paper over the cracks or make them wider no matter how much the child may be longed for by one parent?

This story was very good at the beginning but then in the middle section it did seem to meander along slowly enough and I found myself losing interest somewhat. When we reached the final quarter or so of the book the pace did pick up slightly again as secrets came to light. Though at some points it did go a bit all over the place as things were randomly thrown in and I had to go back and check whether I had missed pages or not. This meant the flow was lost a bit when in fact everything should have been building to an interesting climax. I admit I did have my suspicions throughout but couldn't pinpoint exactly how things were going to turn out. Again my opinions of characters and the viewpoints I had formed over the course of the book changed several times over within reading a few pages. People were not as we thought they were and things that had been hidden were exposed and with the light now shining on things that had been kept secret characters were finally free to express just exactly what they had been feeling. Deceit and lies are out in the open but I did finding the ending wrapped up all too neatly. 

Overall the idea for the book was very good but its execution wasn't as strong as it could be, I got the raw, honest, emotional feelings in the beginning but not throughout and the story became a bit boring. There was something missing and I wanted more. Catherine Miller has shown good promise with her first book and there is definitely more and better things to come from her. I'm not saying this is a bad book, it's not, it's just I think I have previously read better books dealing with this topic.

i'd like to thank Emma for reviewing Waiting for You which we received from the publisher via NetGalley. 

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