Today I am rounding off the blog tour for All The Little Children by Jo Furniss. Thank you to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in this tour.
“When a family camping trip takes a dark turn, how far will one mother go to keep her family safe?
Struggling with working-mother guilt, Marlene Greene hopes a camping trip in the forest will provide quality time with her three young children—until they see fires in the distance, columns of smoke distorting the sweeping view. Overnight, all communication with the outside world is lost.
Knowing something terrible has happened, Marlene suspects that the isolation of the remote campsite is all that’s protecting her family. But the arrival of a lost boy reveals they are not alone in the woods, and as the unfolding disaster ravages the land, more youngsters seek refuge under her wing. The lives of her own children aren’t the only ones at stake.
When their sanctuary is threatened, Marlene faces the mother of all dilemmas: Should she save her own kids or try to save them all?”
When I was a teenager, the absolutely brilliant librarian at my secondary school fuelled my insatiable thirst for books by recommending authors I had never considered reading. This wonderful lady introduced me to the works of Stella Gibbons (Cold Comfort Farm is still the title I will cite when asked for my favourite book), Dorothy L Sayers (Gaudy Night is a masterpiece and a book I return to time and again) and John Wyndham.
John Wyndham is the master of the dystopian novel and I have adored his work ever since I first read one of his books. I started with Chocky but The Chrysalids is my favourite. However, he is known to most people by way of his most famous two novels, The Midwich Cuckoos and The Day of the Triffids..
The reason for my seemingly irrelevant ramblings about my youthful reading habits and my abiding love of a long-dead science fiction writer in this blog post is that from early on this book reminded me of The Day of the Triffids and I can’t think of higher praise than a book garnering a favourable comparison to one of my most beloved authors.
The opening scene of the novel sees the protagonist, Marlene, hiding from her children in the branches of a tree, trying to make a phone call in peace and this pretty much tells you all you need to know about Marlene and her mothering techniques. Many of us will recognise this woman, if not in ourselves, then in people we know. She is a modern woman, trying to juggle a demanding job, young and exuberant children and a failing relationship, and feeling like she isn’t doing any of it particularly well. Even on a weekend away in a remote, rural location, she can’t switch off and is frustrated by lack of connection to the outside world and being unable to escape for five minutes from her needy offspring, . Marlene is not an obviously likeable central character. She is brusque and short-tempered with her children and her sister-in-law, who has joined her on the trip. She is bitter and resentful and impatient and self-centred and some readers may find it difficult to bond with her. However, Marlene’s personality and attitude are important tenets in the story arc, both from the perspective of how she deals with the predicament she finds herself in throughout the novel and the journey she goes on in her personal relationships.
We are thrust into the action instantly when it becomes obvious very quickly that something is terribly wrong in the outside world and the small group have only escaped harm because of their isolation. This isolation never feels idyllic from the start because of Marlene’s attitude towards being stranded in a remote place trying to entertain her children but it soon becomes suffocating, as the party gradually realise that this is their only refuge, despite it’s lack of facilities – it becomes a prison without walls or bars. As we find ourselves in the heads of the characters, only knowing the very little they know and gripped by the fear they are feeling, the whole book is imbued with menace and an underlying current of suppressed panic that propels us from page to page in a desperate effort to find out what is happening and how the characters can make themselves safe. Marlene doesn’t know where to turn or who she can trust in a world turned on its head and so we in turn are suspicious and wary of every new character. It is uncomfortably compelling reading and I was hooked from the beginning, almost desperate for the intolerable ride to be over so I could relax.
The central theme of this book for me is Marlene’s development as a mother and in her relationship with her children. She is a fairly hard and strict woman with very little patience to begin with. However, over the course of the novel, as her family are threatened and she realises that she can depend on no one for help but must rely on her own resources and work with her children to save them, she learns things about herself and her children which change them all. All the best novels involve a journey that is both emotional as well as physical and this book does not in any way disappoint in this regard. Marlene may not be the most sympathetic character I have ever met but she was real and interesting and complicated and I found myself with a lot of questions as to whether things would have turned out differently if Marlene had been a different type of person and how I myself would react and fare if I were placed in the same situation.
If you have read any of the reviews of this book on Goodreads, you may have seen some readers complaining about the ending of this book, and it is certainly unconventional and unexpected. Why some people see this as a negative I am unsure, as anything that surprises, that makes you question why the author chose this conclusion, wonder what happens next, can only be a good thing. For me, I love a book that makes me FEEL something, that leaves me questioning, pondering the issues, wanting others to read the book so I can see what they think is nothing but a positive and this book did all that.
This book is not a comfortable read but it is evocative and thought-provoking and tense. It will stay with you beyond the final page and I would highly recommend it. And read some John Wyndham while you’re at it, you won’t be sorry.
If you would like to see what my fellow bloggers on the tour thought of the book, you can find details of the tour below.
About the Author
After spending a decade as a broadcast journalist for the BBC, Jo Furniss gave up the glamour of night shifts to become a freelance writer and serial expatriate. Originally from the UK, she lived in Switzerland and Cameroon, and currently resides with her family in Singapore.
As a journalist, Jo has worked for numerous online outlets and magazines, including Monocle, The Economist, Business Traveller, Expat Living (Singapore) and Swiss News. Jo has also edited books for a Nobel Laureate and the Palace of the Sultan of Brunei. She has a Distinction in MA Professional Writing from Falmouth University. In 2015 she founded http://www.SWAGlit.com—an online literary magazine for writers in Singapore.
All the Little Children is Jo’s debut novel and she is working on a second domestic thriller to be released in 2018.
Connect with Jo:
Facebook: Jo Furniss Author