I have spent the last couple of days (between working of course!) with my nose firmly between the pages of Dear Thing by Julie Cohen which will be published by Bantam Press, an imprint of Transworld on 11 April 2013.
Claire and Ben are the perfect couple, they adore each other, both have great careers, they live in their dream house and to most people they appear to have everything they want. Those closest to them know that the one thing that would make their life really perfect is a baby, and that is the one thing that they can't have. They've considered adoption, they've tried IVF and Claire really doesn't think that she can try any longer, yet her heart breaks every time she sees a pregnant woman or a small baby. Romily isn't perfect - she's a Doctor, but deals with insects not people, she has a child; the wonderful Posie, but there is no father around. Romily is lucky if she finds two clean socks in the morning, and if they are an actual pair, then she's outshone herself. Despite Romily and Posie's chaotic lifestyle, they love each other. Ben has been Romily's best friend since University and he and Claire are Posie's godparents, and sometimes, just sometimes, Posie wishes that they were her real parents. Romily loves Ben and Claire, they've supported her and helped her with Posie and she can't bear their sadness any more. Romily will be their surrogate, she will have a baby for them.
Sounds simple? That's what Romily and Ben thought. Claire however, wasn't quite so sure, and maybe she was right to have her reservations?
Julie Cohen grabs the reader from page one, introducing the main characters straight away, giving a little bit of their background and a lot of their personalities. Ben is a kind and caring man, he loves his wife passionately and wants her to be happy, he wants them to be a proper family. Ben also cares for Romily, she's his best mate, his quiz team buddy and a girl who will watch football with him. She's also the mother of his beloved Posie who he adores and spoils. Claire is a little more distant, there is no doubt that Ben is her soul mate and the love of her life, but she is suffering inside. As far as she is concerned, she's a failure as a wife and will never be a mother. Romily is a little bit crazy, lives for the moment, is never on time, but is a loyal friend and a loving mum. Posie is the star of the story - creative, funny, honest and so bright - she is an amazing character who will win over every reader.
This is a story that is easy to read but is not always an easy subject. The 'Dear Thing' of the title relates to the letters that Romily writes to the unborn child, always referred to by the three 'parent's as 'Thing'. These letters tell the reader far more about Romily than anything that she actually does or says. The letters are moving and at times heart-breaking and are the heart of this story.
As Romily's pregnancy progresses, little cracks appear in all of the relationships - feelings are expressed, characters from the past emerge and whole worlds are turned upside down.
Dear Thing makes the reader think, this is not just a story about infertility or friendship, although those are two very central themes. This is also a story about realisation, about accepting yourself and your circumstances and about being honest with yourself and with others. Julie Cohen has cleverly woven some really important and sensitive themes into a story that is easy to read, often quite funny and full of larger than life characters.
I enjoyed this novel very much. I loved the writing style, the plot and the characters and would recommend this to fans of Jojo Moyes and Lisa Jewell.
My thanks to Transworld Publishers who sent an advance reading copy for review.
Julie Cohen grew up in Maine and studied English at Brown University and Cambridge University. She moved to the UK to research fairies in Victorian children's literature at the University of Reading and this was followed by a career teaching English at secondary level. She now writes full time ans is a popular speaker and teacher of creative writing. She lives with her husband and their son in Berkshire.
To find out more about Julie and her writing, visit her website at www.julie-cohen.com. You can follow her on Twitter here