Saturday 21 January 2023

Book Review | The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan | prettylittlewriter

'We have your daughter'

Frida Liu is a struggling mother. She remembers taking Harriet from her cot and changing her nappy. She remembers giving her a morning bottle. They'd been up since four am.

Frida just had to finish the article in front of her. But she'd left a file on her desk at work. What would happen if she retrieved it and came back in an hour? She was so sure it would be okay.

Now, the state has decided that Frida is not fit to care for her daughter. That she must be re-trained. Soon, mothers everywhere will be re-educated. Will their mistakes cost them everything?’

This was an interesting read.

It started out with the heart-wrenching scene of Frida having her daughter taken from her. At first, I didn’t have a lot of sympathy for Frida herself, more for Harriet, her daughter, as she should not have left her home alone. Everyone knows that, especially at such a young age.

However, as things kept escalating, with Frida being assigned to the school for re-training, rather than having supervised visits for a while and then getting her back (not that I know how these things work really anyway), it became clear that this wasn’t an ordinary story.

When Frida arrives at the school, she is introduced to lots of different Mothers that have all done something to endanger their child to end up there, and some of them were a hell of a lot worse that what Frida did. Each mother was treated the same, and none of it was in a nice way.

They were introduced to the ‘dolls’ that were their temporary children during their stay, and had to show that they could take care of them before a judge would decide whether they could see their own children again. The dolls were pretty creepy to start with, but slowly I started feeling like they weren’t just dolls, and it seemed like the feelings that were programmed into them, were actually real, and I started feeling incredible sympathy for them and actually kind of wanted Frida to end up with her doll as her daughter, just so she had some love in her life.

The main issues being tackled within this book by Chan are very much sexism (the mothers are treated differently and unfairly compared to the fathers that are also doing the same thing) and the stereotype of a woman's role when she become a mother; they are basically not allowed to have any feelings that aren’t positively related to their child. Some mothers start having relationships between each other, they are punished for this, and when they meet the fathers from the other school, Frida meets a man she likes and instantly is told that she cannot be involved as she will lose her child. This is incredibly unfair, as you do not need to have your sole focus in life as your child for them to grow up well and be cared for, every parent deserves to have other aspects of life too.

Although this was a good read as the dystopian storyline was interesting and infuriating at times, it was also very slow. I was constantly waiting in anticipation for Frida to possibly get her child back, but it wasn’t until the last 80-90% of the book that we had the outcome, which was also not what I expected or hoped for. For such a painful and raw storyline, it was hard to read with it being so long. It took me longer than usual to get through this length of book, mainly because it just felt like a chore being so slow.

Overall, it’s a very thought-provoking story, but it also felt a little redundant as there was no resolution at the end, Chan actually threw in something else as an ending which would have only caused more problems for Frida, which is not what I wanted for her character.

2.5/5 stars

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