I didn’t even try to figure out whodunit. I just kept turning pages, wondering what the hell was going to happen until I had finished the book in one sitting, in the small-numbered hours of the late night.
[Hausmann's] narrative is entirely fresh and original ... The novel’s strength is the author’s careful and thoughtful depiction of children as unwitting victims, both of their captivity and the world beyond the perimeter of the only place they’ve known: a house in the woods. Their muted, confused pain is palpable. And indeed, this finely wrought novel actually becomes difficult to read because the author has so expertly rendered the suffering of all its characters ... it is the suffering children in Dear Child who propel this captivating novel to its heartbreaking higher ground.
... this is a fun story, despite underlying themes of misery and torture ... You may stumble on awkward language; the book is translated by Jamie Bullock from German and includes a few words — like 'twigged' — that don’t quite fit ... But the overall experience is as enthralling as it is thought-provoking. Hausmann creates a dark solar system studded with twinkling stars ... At the core of Dear Child is the constant hope that characters will be drawn back to people who mean the most to them, no matter how far apart they’ve been pulled. That glint of optimism is the light guiding readers as they fly through this book.
How do authors make their books stand out with hundreds of psychological thrillers published every year? The German author Romy Hausmann has managed it ... This is the kind of book you are best not knowing too much about before reading. However, Dear Child is much more than the sum of its parts as outlined above. The characters, especially Lena and Matthias, are very well observed and compelled me to read on, even though this is a dark, dark book. Those twists I refer to, are not artificial, but feel almost inevitable as the story unfolds, and shed light and give depth to the novel’s characters, as well as making for an increasingly tense read. An unfussy translation, by Jamie Bulloch, rounds off a consistently excellent novel.
... chilling ... a twisty and convoluted story, but it unfolds perfectly, with each character revealing another oddity, another brush with darkness and a violent past ... a perfect mash-up of books like Room and Don't Look for Me, but don’t ignore this one just because you’ve read others like it. Hausmann has an innate talent for writing chills into the most innocent of scenes, and her crafting of the mystery at the heart of the novel is cinematic in its scope. I loved how she focused on the moments directly after Lena’s escape, rather than her time in captivity. So often we forget that victims of crimes will live with their trauma for much longer than the time they were held captive or assaulted, and Hausmann has clearly researched the psychological effects of events like these. Each victim in the story reacts differently, and she handles their journeys to acceptance with grace and compassion, even as she refuses to shy away from the darker, more violent scenes ... This is a truly chilling book, and though it feels ripped from the headlines, I feel confident that few readers will know what to expect from it. You may be good at guessing endings, but this one will absolutely shock you, even if you're convinced you’ve figured it all out ... I’m usually hesitant to read translated works, and though I raced through this book, I thought that several transitions were too abrupt, to the point that they were distracting. I couldn’t put it down, but I still felt a bit disconnected from the plot, almost as if the syntax was too flat. It is obvious that Hausmann is talented, so I am hoping that something was lost in translation, but I can see other readers being turned away from the occasionally disjointed narrative ... Shocking, raw and absolutely horrifying, Dear Child marks the emergence of a bright new talent and a perfect addition to any thriller reader’s library.
Translated from the original German by Jamie Bulloch, the story is told from the points of view of multiple characters, and the passages written from Hannah’s perspective are particularly well done: you feel sympathy for her but are also scared as to what this child might be capable of, and even though she has experienced immense mental trauma, at times she seems the most stable, the most together ... By contrast, some of Matthias’s behaviour can seem a bit far-fetched. Of course people do strange things in emotional situations, yet some of his actions simply don’t add up and feel more like plot devices than rational human behaviour. There are also moments when it feels as if the author might have had one eye on a TV adaptation, as when the villain spends precious time explaining his actions in a situation when time is really not on his side ... mesmerising and addictive all the same, and with each turn of the page you are gripped by a new twist or revelation. Hausmann does well to keep her cards close to her chest and keeps the reader guessing for almost the entirety of the book.
One of the children, Hannah, is a major character here. She is meticulously written, with her autism, trauma, and echoes of the horrific life she thought normal combining to create a child, like Jack in Room, whom readers will never forget. As unsettling as they come, this outstanding debut, translated from German, is recommended not only to Donoghue’s fans, but also to those who enjoy true crime, as the verisimilitude here is second to none. The movie can’t be far behind.
Hausmann’s English-language debut is absorbing and sinister, with a tightening web of psychological intrigue. Tiny clues are steadily inserted into this fast-paced, shivery tale with an unforeseen denouement.
... outstanding ... The multiple points of view and numerous plot twists sustain the breakneck pacing, but the book’s real power lies in the author’s insightful and sensitive portrayal of the characters involved in the tragedy. This darkly disturbing thriller definitely marks Hausmann as a writer to watch.
... the author has failed to make the central characters seem like real people, and the supporting ones are barely outlined. For this reason, the reveals in the latter part of the book are less exciting than they should be ... The plot is sufficiently creepy and twisty, but without well-developed characters, the reader's buy-in will be limited.