Can you – or any of us – imagine the horror of being afraid of our child…especially if that child is a seven-year-old girl?
With her debut novel, Zoje Stage has blended the expected with the unexpected – that crafted writing style that the Swedish do so well, combined with a demented central character who just happens to be a small child.
Suzette is a loving mother and wife, whose greatest concern is to find out why her daughter won’t talk. Or is it? The fact of the matter is the child appears to be a devilishly clever and manipulative sociopath. Hanna is her father’s pride and joy who can do no wrong, and she wants to make sure that it stays that way. There is only one problem: Mummy stands in the way.
Over the subsequent almost-300 pages the reader is taken on a rollercoaster ride, which switches back and forth between the experiences and viewpoints of Suzette and Hanna. Like husband/father Alex, you will be torn as to who you believe at times. Such is the tale-telling craft.
The actions of Hanna and the descriptive prose from Stage, will make you shiver. For those of you with children, doubly so. This is no child of supernatural evil, like the one made famous by Stephen King in Pet Sematary. Hanna is her own twisted brand of evil.
As with any gripping thriller, it is the believability of the perpetrator’s actions that make it work. There are some extremely violent scenarios within Baby Teeth that will not sit well with some readers and its ultimate climax and resolution are, perhaps, a step too far for a ‘real world’ novel…or are they?
The title is a play on words for beginnings that lasts only a short time, before being shed for a more permanent state and the central character of Hanna’s maniacal nature. The truth of the novel lies in the fact that no one truly knows when or where evil begins, and it if it stays or just hides beneath the surface.
If you were a fan of We Need to Talk About Kevin – then Baby Teeth is going to be your next literary challenge.
Reviewed by Glen Christie
Rating out of 10: 8
Distributed by: Penguin Random House Australia
Released: July 2018
RRP: $32.99 trade paperback, $12.99 eBook