In her young female protagonist, Jochems has succeeded in creating a highly original voice that both intrigues and repels. With strong overtones of Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novels, Baby sees two women – Cynthia and her cherished Pilates instructor. Anahera – embark on an extraordinary journey and friendship as they uproot their lives to go on the run ... short chapters that give a propulsive feel to the book ... Jochems gives us little else in the way of backstory, which works to heighten the sense of unease we feel about Cynthia as her behaviour becomes increasingly erratic ... There are glimmers of dark humour throughout the book that help to cut through the boredom and repetitiveness of life in an enclosed space. A minor issue with the narrative is the character’s lack of objectives. Cynthia never reveals to us what she wants, not really, and it can be hard to care sometimes because of this. But Jochems does enough with the plot to keep us interested and her plain but precise prose style also helps to keep things buoyant ... In Cynthia, her reality TV-loving psychopath, she has created a fresh voice, a memorable monster who could well have her own series of books if the author chooses to go down that road. As it is, we leave Baby with an almost dirty level of zoom lens detail, as if we’ve binged on reality TV ourselves.
Cynthia, the simpering, scheming, covetous emotional sinkhole of New Zealander Annaleese Jochems’s assured debut novel, Baby, is alive and squirming; a memorable addition to the growing coterie of unapologetic antiheroines (dis)gracing the pages of contemporary fiction ... Jochem’s narrative is a tale of veneers and facades – the selves we project and curate – and so such questions lurk, but never surface. Depending on the reader, this wilful exteriority will either prove the book’s undoing, or its triumph. For we know as much about Cynthia and Anahera at the end of Baby as we do at the beginning – these two women for whom an untimely death prompts as much distress as an emptied jar of Nutella.
This dark and absorbing tale perfectly nails the egocentricity of the Internet age ... The pace is a shade too slow in the beginning, but soon this debut develops into a troubling and tense thriller. The writing style is sparse, powerful, and effective. Although this book may not appeal to a mainstream audience, New Zealander Jochems’s startling and award-winning portrait of the postmillennial generation will cause readers to sit up and take notice.
Jochems’ debut is witty and unique. In Cynthia, she has created a wholly original character who is hard to pin down even when the reader is inside her head. Anahera, meanwhile, is almost completely unfathomable, her actions never making much sense even after secrets are revealed later in the book. Jochems’ prose is simple and intricately chosen, but sometimes the plot struggles to live up to the writing. The first two-fifths of the book are slow in comparison to the rest and written in a completely different tone. While the beginning is a strange coming-of-age for a young, privileged girl, by the end it is a psychosexual cat-and-mouse game between Cynthia and a character not introduced until halfway through the book. Jochems can definitely write, and her future work will surely be a treat. This book, however, is as uncertain as its protagonist about what it wants ... A promising new voice but an uneven page-turner.