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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Child's Play

Carmen Posadas

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To purchase Child's Play

Title: Child's Play
Author: Carmen Posadas
Genre: Novel
Written: 2006 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 282 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Child's Play - US
Juego de niños - US
Child's Play - UK
Child's Play - Canada
  • Spanish title: Juego de niños
  • Translated by Nick Caistor and Amanda Hopkinson

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Our Assessment:

B- : in trying to be too clever by half gets too convoluted

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent . 13/11/2008 Elizabeth Nash

  From the Reviews:
  • "This is a classy murder mystery whose rushing narrative is stained by a deceit perpetrated before the story begins. (...) With the three levels expertly handled, the story hurtles on with clarity, peppered with piercing reflections on late motherhood, childhood innocence and evil, and the advantages of a Man in Your Life over a miserable marriage." - Elizabeth Nash, The Independent

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Child's Play is a multi-layered thriller (of sorts). Successful author Luisa Dávila has begun work on the latest in her series of Carmen O'Inns-mysteries (and chapters from it appear as chapters in the novel; indeed, the novel opens with one of them (i.e. the reader is, at first, immersed in a piece of fiction-within-fiction)). The novel is set at a school resembling the one Luisa went to -- and which her eleven-year-old daughter, Elba, is about to begin attending. Luisa's novel describes the suspicious death of a young student -- and while she was a student at that school one of her classmates had, indeed, died under somewhat suspicious circumstances. To make the circle complete, Luisa is reunited with the two others who were present with Luisa that fateful day when Elba begins school; both now also have children in the same class .....
       Yes, you can guess where this is going: some kid (and you know which one) is going to wind up dead, in circumstances reminiscent of the death that happened almost four decades earlier.
       Luisa is a single mother who decided to get pregnant when she realized her biological clock was winding down; so as to avoid questions and embarrassment she didn't tell the truth -- that she set out to get herself knocked up by some stranger whom she wanted nothing further to do with -- and instead concocted the ruse that she had adopted the child. Poor little Elba thus wondered about her actual parents -- only then to be thrown in further confusion when Luisa finally revealed that she was, in fact, her real mother (though that did still leave the question of who Elba's dad was open).
       Child's Play follows the evolution of Luisa's novel, complete with commentary by Luisa about what she's just written and where the book might go. The similarities to her own childhood experiences are something she's comfortable working with; the similarities between those and what happens with Elba are more confusing to her. In fact, for the most part, Luisa remains fairly oblivious to little monster-child Elba's doings -- even willfully so, as she refuses, for example, to even snoop by looking through the e-mail correspondence with her best friend that Elba prints out and displays rather prominently in a folder (with 'Secret: Keep Out' written on it).
       Luisa also entertains a number of men, still looking for sexual satisfaction (and maybe love), and shares some of her thoughts with them -- about writing, and her past, and her present: this is a novel that is so self-referential that it ties itself in several knots. As one of the men complains:

For a writer, your way of explaining things is a bit all over the place, isn't it ?
       The biggest problem with Posadas' book-within-a-book approach is the commentary and (self-)analysis that spells everything out (over and over) -- right down to Luisa realizing:
     "Yes, it's true," she told herself, "everybody writes their own story. What else are they supposed to write about ? That's not the problem; the problem arises if you don't realize you're doing it. The problem is when you're too blind to see."
       Needless to say, Luisa turns out to be blind as a bat, especially regarding her daughter. This would be considerably more effective if Posadas were a bit subtler; instead she doesn't so much telegraph everything as practically print it in bold, capitalized letters (and repeats everything several times, just in case someone could possibly have missed it, redundancies that, given the history-repeating-itself layers the book has to rely on anyway, grow very tiresome).
       The creepy little Elba and her bad, bad ways are somewhat redeeming features, but not nearly enough to save this convoluted and too-obvious mess. There's enough variety to hold the reader's attention, but the concept is far better than the realization of it.

- M.A.Orthofer, 9 December 2009

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Child's Play: Reviews: Carmen Posadas: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Carmen Posadas was born in Uruguay in 1953. She now lives in Spain.

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