The Child Who by Simon Lelic
First published: 2012 by Mantle
Number of pages: 336
My copy: Bought for 10p from a charity shop in Margate
A quiet English town is left reeling when twelve-year-old Daniel Blake is discovered to have brutally murdered his schoolmate Felicity Forbes.
For provincial solicitor Leo Curtice, the case promises to be the most high profile – and morally challenging – of his career. But as he begins his defence Leo is unprepared for the impact the public fury surrounding Felicity’s death will have on his family – and his teenage daughter Ellie, above all . . .
I was quite gripped by the premise of this story from the start. As the book is told in the third person from Leo’s point of view, we find ourselves in his shoes and defending the indefensible. It’s interesting for the reader to find out why Leo wants to work on this case, and his determination to get to the root cause of why Daniel has done what he has done do make the reader think, and look at different perspectives. Yet while Leo pours all his time into helping Daniel, he does this at the expense of his own family so we are left asking questions about Leo as a person – he seems generous and thoughtful one minute, yet selfish and blinkered the next.
About halfway through the novel the focus changes much more onto Leo’s family. For me, this was at the expense of the core theme of the novel, as I think it would have been much more interesting to find out more about Daniel and his troubled childhood, and what exactly led him to commit such a terrible act. In fact, at the end, this was merely hinted at while the rest of the story was wrapped up. Although the sub-plot involving Ellie, Leo’s daughter, was interesting as well, it took away from Daniel’s story and I would have preferred that the book kept on developing this thread.
Overall, I did enjoy this book, and it raised some very interesting questions and I liked the idea of one person trying to stand up for someone who has been completely written off by society. However the plot seemed a bit jumbled to me and I think it’s a shame that the narrative moved away from its focus on Daniel. By the end, I felt a bit disappointed overall.