Review: The Mistake by Wendy James

Title: The Mistake

Author: Wendy James

Published: Penguin Australia Feb 2012

Synopsis: The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past …  Jodie Garrow is a teenager from the wrong side of the tracks when she falls pregnant. Scared, alone and desperate to make something of her life, she makes the decision to adopt out her baby – and tells nobody.  Twenty-five years on, Jodie has built a whole new life and a whole new family. But when a chance meeting brings the illegal adoption to the notice of the authorities, Jodie becomes embroiled in a nationwide police investigation for the missing child, and the centre of a media witch hunt. Did something sinister happen to Jodie’s baby the night it was born? The fallout from Jodie’s past puts her whole family under the microscope, and her husband and daughter must re-examine everything they believed to be true.  An utterly engrossing exploration of what happens to an Australian family, seemingly just like any other, when a long-buried secret surfaces and a mother’s dirty laundry is aired in front of the entire nation. The Mistake brilliantly explores the media’s powerful role in shaping public perceptions and asks the haunting question: can we ever truly know another person? Read an Extract

Status: Read on February 04, 2012 -I own a copy {Courtesy Penguin Australia}

My Thoughts:

The carefully constructed and comfortable life of Jodie Garrow, a forty- something housewife and mother, unravels after a chance encounter reveals her closely guarded secret putting her at the center of a police investigation and under intense public scrutiny. At barely 19, Jodie gave birth to a baby girl in a small suburban hospital and The Mistake focuses on determining the fate of the infant, as well as exploring the effects of the subsequent accusations and suspicions on Jodie and her family.

Unusually, James makes little attempt to garner sympathy for Jodie from the reader. She is presented as an immaculately coiffured, socialite wife of a lawyer with political ambitions, who reacts to the building maelstrom by abdicating responsibility for both her past and present. She is seemingly willfully ignorant of the repercussions of her secret being revealed, particularly in regards to the effect on her teenage daughter, Hannah. Jodie simply drifts around the house in a haze of some sort, relying on her husband to manipulate the system to her advantage by exploiting the privileges their money and connections afford her, certain that if she ignores the problem it will simply all go away. Luckily, the third person narrative also reveals Jodie’s past as the story unfolds, giving us a glimpse into her very difficult background engendering if not sympathy, then some understanding of her character.
The complexity of James’s protagonist forces the reader to consider their own assumptions based on appearance, class and circumstance. This is further explored as the author shares the media storm that engulfs Jodie and her family. With very few facts and based primarily on a handful of photos interpreted with malice, Jodie is victimised by the media and by extension the public. The media is not at all circumspect about the case, interpreting her ‘faults’ – her styled blond hair, pearl necklace, privileged lifestyle and reserved manner – insinuating that Jodie’s ambitions led her to murder her infant daughter and her financial status is protecting her from swift legal action. Jodie becomes either a pariah or an object of curiosity in her small town amongst all the publicity, total strangers make judgements based on spurious facts on the internet, in newspaper columns and even her mother, unable to resist the lure of a few thousand dollars, fails to defend her. Her husband’s mayoral candidacy is also scuttled and her children are ostracised.
The perspectives of Angus, Jodie’s husband and Hannah, their fifteen year old daughter, are also explored through the narrative. Both Angus and Hannah are shaken by Jodie’s revelation, despite having their own secrets. The intense pressure of the situation they have found themselves in magnifies the small cracks in the veneer of this ‘happy enough’ family, which also includes son, Tom and tears it apart.

A stunning novel, the tension builds as James moves both the story and the characters towards an uncertain conclusion. This is a thought provoking novel that explores themes that provide and insight into contemporary life. Part psychological/crime thriller, part family drama, The Mistake defies genre conventions and simply delivers a compelling story.

I am delighted to announce I was given the opportunity to pose a few questions for Wendy and my interview with her will be published on Book’d Out tomorrow plus Australian residents will have the opportunity to win a print edition of The Mistake.

Available to Purchase

Australia: @ BoomerangBooks I @Booktopia I @Readings

(sorry, no international stockists as yet)

15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mamabunny13
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 07:13:04

    This sounds like such a good book. I’m going to put it on my wish list. Thanks for your review.

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  2. Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 12:49:45

    Oh, this one sounds fascinating, Shelleyrae. I love that the author takes an unsympathetic approach to the MC, and reveals it little by little. It’s a risky thing to do, but when done well can have excellent results. (Nelle Davy did this with not quite as much success in The Legacy of Eden, which I reviewed recently)

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  3. Vasiliki @ Midnight Readers
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 22:53:38

    Wow this one looks very interesting 🙂

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  4. Mary Preston
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 22:55:42

    THE MISTAKE does look interesting. Thank you for your review.

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  5. VeganYANerds
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 08:29:49

    I think the story rings a bell but I can’t remember all the details, it sounds like an interesting book

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  6. ampersand duck
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 09:40:05

    Maybe the story rings this bell? http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/national/accused-murderer-keli-lane-didnt-want-responsibility-of-child/story-e6frf7l6-1225903320121

    I loved the book, I read it in one sitting, and the ending is still reverberating in my head.

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    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Feb 28, 2012 @ 16:05:22

      I followed the Keli Lane case loosely and though I always assumed she was guilty according to the facts that were shared in the media, The Mistake did make me think twice given the media storm

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  7. lisa Heidke
    Feb 29, 2012 @ 11:47:29

    Very much looking forward to reading this one. Thanks, Shelleyrae!

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  8. Trackback: Review: THE MISTAKE by Wendy James | Fair Dinkum Crime
  9. Margaret Lynette Sharp
    Mar 20, 2012 @ 21:59:40

    Sounds like a credible, modern-day scenario. Thanks for your detailed review.

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  10. Trackback: The Mistake by Wendy James | Ms. Wordopolis Reads
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