How far one can go for the sake of their child, especially if one is a mother? Would she be willing to sacrifice anything and everything she could? Would she take steps, which otherwise she would have never dared taken? Would she be giving it all up, for the love of her precious little one? Is everything she does, justified?
A Mother’s Gift by Maggie Hope tries to answer these questions, which may or may not be digestible to the feminists we are today. But being set in the first half of the 20th Century England, it doesn’t seem an impossible plotline that the author has taken.
Katie Benfield was a young girl, just entering her teens when she was first spotted by Matthew Hamilton, the wealthy, shrewd, and lecherous owner of the coal pits where her granddad Noah works. Due to labor strikes and the subsequent closure of the pits, Katie finds herself in extreme inopportune conditions, she couldn’t go to the grammar school despite the scholarship because her grandmother didn’t have the money for the uniform. Altogether, life couldn’t have been more infelicitous, or so she thought. Unknown to the Benfield family, Matthew hires Noah despite the strike so that the girl doesn’t have to suffer. Years pass, and now Katie is a young probationer in the hospital, working in the gynecology ward. It is there that Matthew spots her again when his so-called wife is admitted for a miscarried baby, and his lust for the girl ignites. As fate would have had it, Noah and Billy, Katie’s sweetheart die in a mining accident, and she finds herself in the comforting company of Matthew. Needless to say, he beds her at her most vulnerable state, leaving her with a sick mental situation. On returning to her grandma for some time to recover, Katie lets it out that she has been involved with Matthew, which leads the old lady to throw her out of the house. With nowhere to go, Katie ends up in Matthew’s arms, much to his wanting.
It’s been years since Katie left her hometown with Matthew and is now living on a secluded moor house with her little daughter Georgina and help Dorothy. Matthew visits them from time to time, putting across a picture of a happy family, but only Katie knows the truth. Although she has started loving Matthew, she knows she is no more than his mistress and her daughter, a bastard.
What follows is a series of events across the next ten years that shake all of Katie’s foundations. Her only aim was to protect her child, will she able to do that?
Narrated in the third person, which I think is always the best way, the language was a little difficult for me, with all those accented words of the locale in the initial chapters. The timeline of the entire plot moved too fast and at times without any intimation, which frankly made me think I’d skipped something. There were quite a few printing errors too. The characters were well built, and I could easily make out their entire personalities.
But faults apart, the story is a real heart warmer, although it would have been more appealing if the relationship between the mother-daughter duo was explored further given the title. Putting together a story around a mother’s love is easy, for whatever one writes will be appreciated. Doing the same in a manner which identifies with many, is difficult. Since the author takes up almost half the length of the story to finally reach the point where the child is introduced, this book came out to be more like a book on the female part, rather than the motherhood part. The struggles Katie goes through from the very beginning until the end is more than a reason enough to shift the entire focus on her, leaving her relationship with her daughter on the side. Although the major years of the timeline are after the birth of her baby, somehow that doesn’t come out strong enough for the theme to be justified. The story is more and more about Katie and her life rather than Katie and her daughter’s life. I would have enjoyed it more had it stuck to its central theme, or if the title been different and not giving the look and feel of something that wasn’t there.
The story is high on emotions, love, and grief, balanced with a hint of hate and treachery. It is an out and out positive drama despite its negative plot, which rendered me to think about the times when life was such, and there was nothing one could do except look for the brighter side of things.
A lot could be said and debated about the way the protagonist is made to take the decisions, with our judgmental thinking of today for something that has been set almost a century ago. Was it necessary to do what she did? She could have had other ways to deal with the problem, she just took the easiest option. As I maintain, a person does the best they can in given circumstances, for it is they who know what it feels to be the decision-maker under highly stressful circumstances.
A very important aspect that came into light from reading this book is that no matter where in the world a woman is, there are always the lecherous animals on the prowl for her, be it India or England. But I hope time changes, and the world becomes a place equal for both men and women.