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Wednesday 29 September 2021

‘The Playdate’ by Louise Millar

Published by Pan,
10 May 2012.
ISBN: 978-1-4472-0844-0 (TPB)

Callie and Suzy are neighbours in an affluent, respectable London suburb.  They have been 'best friends' for the last two years, ever since Callie helped Suzy when her twin boys were born prematurely. Callie has a daughter, five-year-old Rae, who is the same class as Suzy's eldest son.  In many ways the two friends' lives are very different.  Suzy is an American, married to an Englishman; she has chosen to be a stay-at-home mum and has a beautiful home, three healthy children and a husband who is a successful businessman.  Callie is a single mother, living from hand-to-mouth, in a run-down, rented flat.  She was forced to give up her job as a sound designer because Rae was born with heart trouble and, although her health is much improved after an operation, she still needs vigilance and extra care.  One thing the two friends do have in common is that they are both tied to selfish, insensitive men.  Jez, Suzy's husband, is self-absorbed and, even while working from home, he is emotionally and mentally withdrawn.  Tom, Callie's ex, gives little emotional, financial or physical support and spends a lot of time working abroad.  However he considers he has the right to criticise Callie's care and parenting of Rae, not to mention discussing such private things with his new, successful, unencumbered girlfriend.

Callie has been saddened by the unfriendly attitude of other neighbours and the parents at Rae's school, which has added to her low self-esteem.  Suzy tells her that she is refusing invitations from people who are too snobbish to befriend Callie.  Callie is grateful but she feels increasingly smothered by the closeness of their friendship.  When Debs, middle-aged, dowdy and shy, moves into the street, Callie makes overtures of friendship.  Debs is a former teacher now working at the school's After School Club, but she has dark secrets in her past and it seems possible she is not as mild and harmless as she seems.  Despite opposition from everyone but Rae, Callie goes back to work, but finds juggling a job and the needs of a frail child even harder than she anticipated.  On Callie's third day back at work, Rae has an accident and is injured while coming home in Debs' care.  But did Rae fall into the road or was she pushed?  Suzy raises doubts about Debs' mental condition.  Callie is desperate to keep her child safe but the damage has already been done and Rae has been exposed to further danger.

The style of this book is interesting.  Separate chapters are written in the viewpoints of the three women, but Suzy and Debs are written in the 3rd Person, Callie is written in the 1st Person.  It is very much Callie's book and also little Rae's.  I found the depiction of the disempowerment and isolation that comes with having a sick or disabled child very convincing, as was the sadness and fear of loss that lingers even when the imminent health problem is past. Lack of confidence in her own instincts leads Callie to trust the wrong person with terrifying results, but the writer evokes sympathy for her and creates a compelling page-turner with a breathtaking climax.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Louise Millar  was brought up in Scotland. She began her journalism career in mainly music and film magazines, working as a sub-editor for Kerrang!, Smash Hits, the NME and Empire. She later moved into features, working as a commissioning editor on women's magazines. She has written for Marie Claire, Red, Psychologies, Stella (Telegraph magazine), the Independent, the Observer, Glamour, Stylist and Eve. She lives in London with her husband and daughters.

Carol Westron is a successful author and a Creative Writing teacher.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  Her first book The Terminal Velocity of Cats was published in 2013. Since then, she has since written 5 further mysteries. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.

To read a review of Carol latest book This Game of Ghosts
click on the title. 

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