A Child's Book of True Crime by Chloe Hooper (Australian)

I really don't know what to make of Chloe Hooper's A Child's Book of True Crime.

It came to me as a recommendation from someone that I really trust, and I do think that it was a good recommendation. But this book was really quite dark and creepy and I think that is that which stopped me from really enjoying the story.

The plot is centred on Kate Byrne, a young primary school teacher who commences an affair with a parent of one her favourite students. Her lover's wife, Veronica, has just written a true crime novel about the murder of a young girl, Ellie Siddell, who was murdered by her own lover's wife when she discovered their affair.

The novel is written from the perspective of Kate, who appears to become increasingly caught up in some paranoid delusion in which she believes that she will share the same fate as Ellie Siddell. In fact, some of the book is Kate's own reimagining of Ellie Siddell's murder in the form of a children's book, with the story presented through the eyes of a community of native animals. Even this story differs from what we learn are the real facts known about the murder, and it differs in a way that suits what Kate would have us believe about the murdered girl.

Kate is an unlikeable character and an untrustworthy narrator. Is her life in danger or is it in her head? I still don't feel as though I know the answer.

Hooper herself is clearly an extremely talented writer. There are so many themes that are cleverly woven in amoungst Kate paranoid musings. She provides us with some really interesting, and no doubt well-researched, insights in to the minds of children. She also explores the dynamics of a relationship between an older married man and a young female. She also gives us an inight into the mind of someone who is arguably mentally ill.

It was undoubtedly a unique novel. I don't feel as though I have read anything like it before, and I doubt that I will ever read anything like it again.

But A Child's Book of True Crime didn't achieve anything in particular. I was left wanting, thinking to myself "yeah, and….." Hooper delved so deep into the character that there was not sufficient plot to balance with the intense characterisation.

I was left feeling unsatisfied and disturbed at the end of this book. If this is what Hooper was setting out to achieve, then she did it successfully. If there was some deeper purpose to this book (and it reads as though there should be), then it was lost on me.

(This book will not receive a rating because I can't quite place my feelings about it.)


Please let me know what you thought of this book if you have read it. Did you get it? Was there something more that I am missing or is this simply the musings of a woman slowly losing her mind? If it is, why is that so unsatisfying?