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Love Child: A Novel

Love Child: A Novel

3.5 4
by Sheila Kohler

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An enthralling new novel from the highly acclaimed author of Becoming Jane Eyre

The compelling story of a forbidden marriage, a baby lost, and a love triangle gone horribly wrong, Love Child centers on Bill, a South African woman whose life has been defined by the apartheid-era, class-riven society in which she lives. Under pressure to make


An enthralling new novel from the highly acclaimed author of Becoming Jane Eyre

The compelling story of a forbidden marriage, a baby lost, and a love triangle gone horribly wrong, Love Child centers on Bill, a South African woman whose life has been defined by the apartheid-era, class-riven society in which she lives. Under pressure to make her will, Bill is forced to think about the momentous events and decisions that have made her an extremely wealthy if somewhat disillusioned woman. To whom should she leave her fortune? As Bill relives her past, we learn that this is a simple question with a complicated answer. In elegant, sensual, and nuanced prose, Kohler skillfully explores the space between our dreams and our reality, between our hopes and our disappointments.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In her seventh novel, Becoming Jane Eyre, Kohler imagines the Brontë sisters' life of genteel poverty. In her new sharply detailed book, she portrays a slightly disreputable white woman in Johannesburg who came of age, married, had children, and was widowed, all within the confines of South Africa's English enclave. Unlike the Brontës, hers is a life circumscribed by wealth. Rounds of cocktails muffle feelings of being trapped; South African independence is a distant and unlikely concern. When the book opens, in 1958, the disapproving family lawyer is pressing the widow, Bill (a former tomboy), to make her will. At age 48, languidly considering how best to distribute her fortune, Bill recollects her life, especially her brief elopement with a Jewish man when she was 17. Distant from her sons and tired of supporting her brothers and sisters, Bill looks back and questions the choices that were made for her. VERDICT A strong portrait of a weak woman. Recommend this to readers of Damon Galgut and J.M. Coetzee. For all literary fiction collections.—Laurie A. Cavanaugh, Wareham Free Lib., MA
Kirkus Reviews

Old family scandals are revisited by a South African woman in this seventh novel from the expatriate South African writer (Bluebird, or The Invention of Happiness, 2007, etc.).

She's the pretty daughter of a diamond appraiser in Johannesburg. He works alongside her father. They're still in their teens, but it's love at first sight. She's a Christian, he's a Jew, a huge problem. They elope in a borrowed Chevy and head for her father's hometown, stopping only to make love at a hotel. She hopes the aunts she remembers so fondly will shelter them. Wrong call. The three maiden ladies are horrified by the scandal (it's 1925) and call her parents. Her father arrives and ends their romance. Isaac leaves defiantly, Bill remains behind, her aunts' prisoner. Kohler has featured Bill (her childhood tomboy name) before, in her 1994 novelThe House on R Street. Nine months later, Bill gives birth and her baby is snatched away, sold to adoptive parents. This is the only dramatic episode in a limp novel, so it's unfortunate that it's cut up into pieces, sandwiched between events 10 and 30 years later. The scandal has stayed buried until 1956, when Bill discloses it to her teenage sons. In the interim, there has been a second scandal. In 1935, Bill is hired as a companion to a wealthy woman, a lonely alcoholic whose businessman husband is often away. Mark, the sexually voracious husband, pursues Bill, who insists he first divorce Helen before marrying her. After the marriage, the three continue living together in an improbable ménage. Then Helen dies, and Bill becomes a heavy drinker too. Had she ever loved Mark? Readers will find it difficult to tell from the distanced narration. As for the eponymous love child, don't hold your breath; she doesn't appear till the very end.

Lonely women in hushed bedrooms form the dominant image in a disjointed work that, aside from that brief elopement, is also passionless.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Sheila Kohler was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. She later lived in Paris for fifteen years, where she married, completed her undergraduate degree in Literature at the Sorbonne, and a graduate degree in Psychology at the Institut Catholique. She moved to the U.S. in 1981 and earned an MFA in Writing at Columbia. She currently teaches at Princeton University. Becoming Jane Eyre is her 10th book. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, O Magazine and included in the Best American Short Stories. She has twice won an O’Henry Prize, as well as an Open Fiction Award, a Willa Cather Prize, and a Smart Family Foundation Prize. Her novel Cracks was nominated for an Impac Award, and has been made into a feature film to be distributed by IFC. She has been published in 8 countries.

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Love Child 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I came across this novel by accident and read it in one sitting. It is outstanding. The novel depicts a middle aged woman who has inherited a great deal of money from a recently deceased husband. Several time lines unfold in alternating chapters: a romance and elopement at age 17, resulting in the Love Child of the title, who is given away; the circumstances that led to her marriage to her second (now deceased) husband: she was introduced to the household as a companion to the first wife of the husband, after which a menage a trios unfolds, followed by her replacement of the first wife; the third time line is the present (1950s) during which the woman searches for her first child. But this plot line says little. The novel is a lyrical description of South African landscape and upper class Anglo interiors with black and colored servants observing the sad convolutions of their white employers' lives. I cannot stress what a pleasure this book is to read. Every sentence sparkles, vividly, incandescently, without cliche or superfluous word. Stylistically, the prose reminds me somewhat of Bruce Chatwin at his best. Originally South African, Kohler is a far better writer (if less famous) than Coetzee.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good storyline but slow moving.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago