Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT @TerryTyler4 reviews Family Drama Chergui’s Child by @JaneRiddell

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Chergui’s Child by Jane Riddell


CHERGUI’S CHILD by Jane Riddell

3 out of 5 stars.

Genre: Family/relationship drama, with themes of extramarial affairs, pregnancy, death, eating disorder.

Chergui’s Child is the story of Olivia, whose aunt has just died; to her surprise, she is left a large amount of money in the will.  Olivia is a troubled woman; her relationship with her mother is difficult, to put it mildly, and she has an eating disorder.  Early in the book, she receives a letter that reveals a startling revelation; this sends her on a life-changing journey.

The novel alternates between her present dilemmas, which include her mother contesting the money left by the aunt, and the past, when she was a medical student having an affair with her tutor, Richie, whose wife had her own problems.  I’m a fan of this structure, and in this case the slow building up of the past-that-led-to-the-present made it much more interesting than just a straight story.

Olivia travels to France and to Gibraltar as more revelations provide missing pieces in her life’s jigsaw.  Generally, the family dynamics of all characters involved are well drawn.  I did think that, generally, there was too much domestic/conversational minutiae that was not needed for the plot, and slowed it down.  Some of the characters came alive to me (Martin, Richie, Dorothy and Roz), some didn’t; alas, for me, Olivia fell in the latter group.  The only emotion I felt towards her was slight irritation at her naïveté; she didn’t understand that age-old cliché and truth of the mistress of a married man: that once you become problematic or needy you no longer supply the romantic fantasy, and are, thus, dispensible.  Mostly, I felt no connection with her.

I was a little unsure about the feasibility of some elements: Olivia is told about her inheritance by her own solicitor two days later after her aunt dies, and the funeral is the next day.  In my experience, it takes a couple of days even for the death certificate to come through, before you can begin to arrange funerals, which takes a week at the very least, and I would have thought that Olivia’s solicitor would have had to wait for instruction from executors, etc.  Also, in the flashback chapters, a tragic death takes place in Morocco that is central to the plot, but I was unconvinced by some practicalities and subsequent reactions of the character involved.

I liked many parts of this novel, but on the whole, for me, it lacked a spark that would have made it memorable.  But the writing flows well, and I am sure readers who like easy-read, emotional family dramas would enjoy it.

Book description

Thirty-something Olivia is recovering from a traumatic event five years earlier, when she is summoned to the bedside of her dying aunt, Dorothy. Shortly afterwards, she learns that her aunt has left her a large sum of money and a letter with a startling revelation. From Morocco to London to the south of France, this is the story of one woman’s journey to make her life whole again.

About the author

Jane Riddell grew up in Glasgow, Scotland but defected to Edinburgh in her thirties, after living in New Zealand and Australia. For many years she worked for the NHS as a dietitian and health promoter. In 2006 she took a career break to move with her family to Grenoble, France, for three years. During this time she wrote more seriously, so seriously that when she returned to Edinburgh she decided to make writing her ‘job’.

Jane writes contemporary fiction, and is a keen blogger, including penning letters from a Russian cat. She is always on the lookout for interesting authors to interview for her Papillon blog. If you fit this category, email her on:

Jane holds a Masters in Creative Writing. In 2011 she started a small editing business, Choice Words Editing.

Jane Riddell

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13 thoughts on “Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT @TerryTyler4 reviews Family Drama Chergui’s Child by @JaneRiddell

  1. Interesting review, which raised a general point for me, that readers’ perceptions and own experience can impact strongly on how they relate to a novel, particularly a contemporary novel. What rings true for one reader may not for another. How much should an author attempt to anticipate these issues / problems or should they simply write from their own experience? For example there are several very well regarded books set in the ‘heatwave’ of 1976. I found them unsatisfactory because my experience of that year wasn’t at all as it was presented in those books. I know in my head that’s because I wasn’t living in the south of England, but in a different part of the UK, where the summer was hot, but not severe, but that knowledge didn’t stop me being distanced from the characters because I couldn’t relate to their experiences. For a novel set in a different place or time where the reader doesn’t have personal experience to match against it there is less of a problem. The author’s job there is to present a convincing picture. Here, the reviewer is unsure about the timing of the funeral and that clearly impacted on their appreciation of the novel. In matters like this it appears there are different ‘normalities’ in different parts of the UK. – Where I come from (Northern Ireland) if a post mortem is not required then it is common for the death certificate to be available either the same or the following day and for a funeral to take place within 2 or 3 days – it is rare to have to wait for a week. I was shocked therefore to find that in England waits of a week or longer are the ‘norm’. Tricky business.

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    • I agree about everyone reading a novel differently, Margaret! A ‘deal breaker’ for one person will not matter a jot to another reader, indeed. This was set in England. Having recently experienced the death of a family member, I know how long all this stuff takes; I did check with a couple of other people who’d had similar experiences to make sure it was the norm, before writing this. I think it’s the author’s responsibility to get the practical details of a novel right, and the editor (if she uses one) to check them. Despite other aspects I thought were a bit ‘iffy’, it was nicely written; those able to suspend their disbelief over feasibility issues and who love moderately-paced family dramas will probably like it, and, indeed, the novel has many positive reviews. I think it is important to write a review from both a personal and an objective viewpoint, which is what I tried to do!

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      • Absolutely, Terry, couldn’t agree more. It just highlighted for me, how tricky these issues are.


    • In the U.S., funerals can occur within several days. Death certificates are issued for purposes of collecting on insurance policies, etc.

      I had the impression that Terry just couldn’t connect with Olivia, and that’s what colored her perspective on the story. No two readers approach a book the same; we all have different philosophies and outlooks. As a fan of “emotional family dramas,” I may like this novel.

      A well thought-out and comprehensive review, Terry.


      • It is why I try to review objectively as well as from a personal POV, Linda! But these practical details were actually wrong (in the UK), and her editor (if she uses one) should have picked up on them. As I’ve said, this wouldn’t be a deal breaker for some, but it annoyed me! You’re right about my lack of connection to the main character, though – if you find the protagonist of any book a bit one-dimensional, and annoying at best, it’s hard to root for her. But my complaints were mostly of a feasibility nature, especially later in the book that I don’t want to go into because it would give the plot away. But hey – yes, we’re all different!!


  2. Thanks, Terry. Margaret makes a good point, and I guess we can’t help but bring our own experience to the books we read (that’s part of the fun). But yes, who died in Barcelona, was buried three days later (he died in hospital, and circumstances make a difference, for sure).

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  3. But I also agree that if the authors are going to include very specific details that are important to the story, I would expect them to get them right. I have talked about that to some authors, but I must say not everybody seems bothered about it. It might be a genre-related thing as well, as readers of some genres are more tolerant than others.

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    • It might be simply that they don’t know some things are not feasible, but yes, it does bother some and not others. I often look at the reviews of, say, crime thrillers, and there might be lots of reviews saying that the book is brilliant, and others pointing out all the plot holes.

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