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Because of You by Dawn French

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | General Fiction

By Swirl and Thread

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Because of You by Dawn French is published with Penguin Michael Joseph Books. It is the fourth novel from the number one bestselling author and is described as ‘life-affirming and moving, a stunning new novel, told with Dawn French’s signature humour, warmth and so much love.’ Because of You was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021.

Because of You is a story of motherhood, and the very strong bonds that exist in such relationships, but it is also a story wrapped around a very tragic event. Hope and Anna are two very different people with one thing in common. As the clock ticks toward midnight in the maternity ward of a London hospital they are both on the cusp of giving birth to their first child. Anna is married to Julius, a narcissistic and conceited politician, who is always looking to be a headline. The only relationship of any interest to Julius is the one he has with himself. Anna is exhausted, sick and tired of being in the company of such a self-absorbed individual. She longs for this child, this baby that will provide a light in her life, and shift her focus onto something more comforting and fulfilling.

‘It was fairly exhausting to be a constant smokescreen for his blatant idiocy, but she persisted. It was an exercise of damage limitation in which she failed to realize that she herself was the most damaged. The relationship was broken, but they were both clinging to the wreckage. Well, she was clinging to the wreckage. He WAS the wreckage.’

In another room on the ward Hope, and her partner Quiet Isaac, are nervous but excited at the prospect of the soon-to-be new addition to their little family. Hope and Isaac know love, true love, and their relationship is tender, with a shared appreciation for family, for kindness and for knowing what is truly important in life. Although the pregnancy was unexpected, both Hope and Isaac embrace this new future and are very much looking forward to this new journey they are about to embark on.

But that night one gives birth to a very healthy little baby girl and the other faces the most unimaginable heartache when their baby is born a stillbirth.

Hope leaves the hospital with a beautiful baby girl and leaves a trail of devastation in her wake.

Flash forward eighteen years and Minnie is in her flat with her partner Lee. Both are young but in love….and Minnie is pregnant. Minnie has had a very happy childhood surrounded with a family who love her dearly and a mother who will stop at nothing to give Minnie the best life she has to offer. Minnie is a wonderful mix of personalities. She is quirky and feisty, a young woman with a creative streak and a determination to live life to the full. But Minnie does not know the wrecking ball that is about to come crashing into her life. Her world as she has known it is about to be upended and changed forever.

Dawn French captures all the characters wonderfully, and of course introduces her trademark comedy in the form of a policeman, Inspector Thripshaw, who, without fail, misquotes sayings and well-known phrases.

“Don’t worry, I’m not a pigment of your imagination”
“These past years have been a steep learning kerb for us at the Met and we have to acknowledge that in our determination to dissolve this mystery, we resumed that we had our suspects”

In a story that is full of heartbreak and sadness, his inability to get his words correct, provide much needed lightness.

Dawn French has a very unusual style of writing, one that is quite uniquely her own. Many of us are familiar with her sense of fun and her gentle nature when portraying characters on our screens and this sense of humanity seeps through in her writing. There are elements of the story that I recommend any reader not to question too much as to do so would very much take from the poignancy of this tale.

Because of You is very much a story about a mother’s love. It is a tale of deep sadness, of regret and of anguish, at times uplifting but also filled with a suffering and torment. There are characters we should intensely dislike in this sometimes challenging tale but Dawn French somehow makes the reader have empathy and compassion instead.

Because of You is a thought-provoking read injected with a warmth we’ve come to expect from Dawn French. Featuring very strong women with fortitude and resilience it is a story filled with a great sense of love and remorse, of tolerance and forgiveness.

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.

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