The Perfect Child by Lucinda Berry

A review of the psychological thriller novel The Perfect Child by Lucinda Berry.

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The Perfect Child follows the story of Christopher and Hannah Bauer. Christopher is a well-respected surgeon and his wife is a popular and experienced nurse. The two medics seem to have a perfect life, with one exception: no children. One day Janie—a young, terribly abused child—is brought into the hospital where they both work. Almost immediately building a bond with this child, the couple agree to foster her until a permanent family can be found. Through a series of flashbacks from social worker Piper Goldstein, the book chronicles the burgeoning relationship with they have with Janie.

The story is well-written and the main protagonists are cleverly developed. Christopher is written as confident, but not arrogant, and slightly naïve. Hannah comes across as a more down-to-earth, practical person. Both characters grow and develop in a believable, logical way that at times left me wondering what I would do in their situation.

The peripheral characters are sympathetic to the main story. The book explores the complexity of a child’s relationships with different members of the extended family. It also shows, albeit to the extreme, how manipulative children can be.

Janie is very cleverly written and developed. The reader will go through a gamut of different emotions towards her—from pity, to disbelief, to dislike—and that is a testament to Berry’s excellent prose.

The author does include some shocking incidents involving Janie; however, Berry does not over-describe or sensationalise these events. Due to this, it makes them more shocking as the reader is left alone with their imagination. There are a couple of examples of animal abuse, but they are used in context and are quite necessary to the plot.

Although set within a medical community, the reader does not need a medical degree to understand any technical jargon as it is scarce. The book does contain strong language but it is in the context with what is happening, and it does not feel gratuitous.

This is not my normal genre of book. It is difficult to read at points, but is also an insight into the damage caused to children from years of abuse. The Perfect Child by Lucinda Berry is a well-paced novel and I would recommend it.

Cassidy grew up in Thanet and lives here with her family.

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