There has never been a more apt time than now to read Herbert Williams’ most recent novel Love Child. With our own media overflowing with stories of the dubious tactics of newspaper staff, the reader will discover that little except the technology available to reporters has changed in the world of the press in the last half a century.
Some readers may be alienated in the initial chapters by the attention paid to the inner workings of a major newspaper. However, the novel gathers momentum into an emotional investigation, though surprisingly not of the man and woman bound by the love child of the title. In fact, the reader begins to wonder if they will even meet for a second time within the pages of the book. Instead, they and their current spouses move through the wraths of their past, seeming content to witness a widening gulf between themselves and those closest to them.
The novel follows reporter Steve as he is assigned, fifteen years on, to the small town of his youth where he regresses, subjecting his wife and child to the tweaking of emotional threads that had lain as a tangled but static knot across a generation. We are permitted unrestricted access into the characters’ streams of consciousness and are able to empathise with how most of them begin to suspend both their sense of judgement and that of reality, and see how many have simply come to accept the frustrations of aging in a small town while others are plagued by unrealised possibilities.
Primarily, however, the novel highlights the miscommunication and friction that arise between partners at any stage of life. Williams has the ability to conjure in the reader both the anxiety of being excluded from the inner (and many outer) aspects of a spouse’s life as well as the delicately contained excitement and reckless abandon of illicit behaviour.
In the final chapters, illusions are shattered, conspiracies are overturned, and the labels many had accepted for themselves made redundant. A surprising resolution is provided by a case of mistaken identity as hysteria matures into an unlikely friendship. Love Child is a truthful examination of the conscious choices made by a generation approaching forty as they reassess those ideals and aspirations that they had thought as youths to be intrinsic to their identity.