46. Death of an Expert Witness by P.D. James
I really like P.D. James (as you can tell by my list so far this year), and this one did not disappoint. I really enjoy the way James gets into the minds of the characters without giving away too much, or taking away from the central mystery. She really has a gift for making her characters real, in a very short period of time.
I had never read this one. I would not say I am a huge fan, which is obvious by the fact that I haven’t read this until now, but I am surprised at how compulsively readable these books are. This was 870 pages, and I read it in three days, even though I had my kids with me, and I went to the theater on Monday night, so that whole night was out. This was a fun read, even though it was definitely a lot darker than the previous ones. Dolores Umbridge really made me mad, I hate people like that. She was convincingly really scary because she was so real.
More review to come. I loved this book, but I need to think about it a bit more.
Fantastic book about how we lie to ourselves. The titular character, Tom Starbird, rescues babies from less than ideal family lives, and delivers them for a very high price to couples who have difficulty adopting. He honestly sees himself as providing a service to all parties, including the harried mothers from whom he steals the babies (or, as he puts it, the suppliers from whom is acquires the product). Of course, it is all much more complicated than that, and he ends up his final case ends up going against everything he believes about himself.
One of the things that I found fascinating about this book was his obvious compassion and love for the mothers he deals with, whether the suppliers or the clients of his transactions. His own mother attempted to abandon him when he was small, and never was very loving, so perhaps he was touched by their obvious love for the babies involved, but that doesn’t completely explain his regard for the suppliers. He thinks he is doing them a favor, by taking a baby that they do not want. His occupation seems to be an act of love to his own mother, who he could never please as a young boy. He still loves her, though, and he thinks that removing the burden of the baby might have made her happy, so he provides this service for other mothers. Although he doesn’t come out and tell them this is what he doing, he does convince himself that they would thank him if it weren’t socially unacceptable to do so, especially in a world with a baby shortage (increasing infertility, and the borders are closed to foreign adoption by Homeland Security).
This book is frighteningly possible. It made me think about my own parenting skills, and also the society that we live in quite a bit. Many people do view babies as products–the baby merchant’s clients, while obviously sincere in their desire to be parents, are incredibly specific about what they want in a child (e.g. one of the parents must have attended Juilliard). They want to be parents, but they think they can order up talents, looks and a personality for their child like they might order up color, cut and material for their newest winter coat. They tell themselves they just want to be parents, the husbands just want to make their wives happy, but they mean they want to be parents of specific children that will turn out well and make them proud. In the end, they are just as sefish as Tom’s mother, who only had him to help her with her poetry, and wanted to discard him when she found out that a baby is a dependent being, not a muse.
This is the kind of book that stays with you and makes you think for a long time.