Have you ever found yourself writing a review for a book that you didn't particularly enjoy, but found important and/or necessary? Little Darlings was just that read for me, and if you'll bear with me, I'll do my best in unpacking these complicated feelings I have below.
"The child is not mine as the first was,
I cannot sing it to rest,
I cannot lift it up fatherly
And bliss it upon my breast:
Yet it lies in my little one's cradle
And it sits in my little one's chair,
And the light of the heaven she's gone to
Transfigures its golden hair."
-From The Changeling, by James Russell Lowell
I feel the need to say up front that my review will be covering this book from two standpoints: 1) as a genre read and 2) as a fictional exposition and, dare I say allegory, of postpartum depression/anxiety and the overall grief some new mothers find themselves enduring as they enter this new stage of life. I'm going to tackle the less glowing of the two first and save what I found empowering for the grand finale.
As a mystery/thriller/horror/whatever genre you want to market this as, I found it ok. My intense love of all things involving Welsh folklore should have sealed this as a 5 star read, but I think my expectations were not on par for what this book is meant to offer. That's not a bad thing, just simply a form of miscommunication and overeagerness on this reader's part. Obviously, (and keeping this spoiler free) you are made aware that Little Darlings is considered a paranormal thriller, due to the plot engaging in a tango of "have Lauren's babies been swapped with changelings or is she suffering some form of postpartum psychosis?" I think the reason I was a little let down in this aspect is due to a number of influences. Could it be that, because I have read so many incredible mysteries lately indulging in Welsh folklore that I'm oversaturated at the moment? Could it be that I've just read so many mysteries that I've come to demand an unfair level of "confound me, dammit!" in my reads? It's quite possible. I'm clearly in the minority that I found the pacing to be slow and drawn out, and that could be because of point two.
"She was still waiting for the rush of love. That one you feel, all at once the second they're born, like nothing you've ever experienced before. The rush of love that people with children always go on about. She'd been looking forward to it. It worried her that she hadn't felt it yet."
Now to the part I've been itching to write about. This is a bloody well-done depiction, albeit fictional, of the terrifying and lonely spiral into PPD. As someone who has suffered twice with PPD/PPA, I found Golding's writing and comparisons to be so spot on, it was as if she had crawled into my brain and taken my greatest fears and weaknesses and put them on paper. I'm in awe of how accurately she portrayed this mental battle, and wondered as I read if she herself had suffered with this, or was close to someone who had in the past. That said, it was a difficult read that had me fighting to block out some of those horrible memories; I think it's worth noting that this may be a triggering read for others who have suffered with PPD and you may want to assure you're in the proper mental state before devouring this novel. I have a huge respect for the author in bringing attention to a disorder that, while common and affecting numerous women each year, is still considered very taboo and kept quiet. This is an important read and a story that needed to be written, and for that fact alone I hope this novel gets the worldwide attention and success that it deserves.