‘The Good Girl’ is a thought-provoking novel with an extremely important message held within it.
The story centres around two female protagonists, Ailsa, the mother of three children and a head teacher at a local secondary school, and Romy, her seventeen-year-old daughter, and heeds a warning for all parents and their children in this modern day world filled with technology, where naïve decisions can have disastrous consequences.
The two different voices of the main characters are distinct. One being written in the first person and the other in the third aids this, and as you read it soon becomes apparent that the story is being told retrospectively. Readers are shown the disastrous event that the novel is leading towards in the prologue, and are carried through the months leading up to it, all undoubtedly with a feeling of dread in their stomachs. The dual narrative enables the reader to see the different viewpoints in relation to the disastrous event and the thoughts justifying each of the characters actions. It’s a fascinating and clever insight into the parallel lives of a mother and daughter relationship and how things can be viewed differently depending on who is doing the observing.
And either way, in the end, the consequences of Romy’s actions have far reaching effects that no one could have anticipated. And both Ailsa and her husband, due to their own past misdemeanours, feel in many ways responsible. For how one is brought up undoubtedly has an impact on who they are and how they parent their own children. However, times have changed an immense amount in the last few generations and parents now are often unable to relate to the lives of their offspring. Technological advances mean that nothing is ever fully erasable or forgotten. Something uploaded onto the Internet loses the ownership of the person in the photo or video and, once out of the hands of its stars, can spread all over the world.
Fiona Neill is very scathing of social media and the Internet and is very clear throughout the novel that she believes it can have a negative impact on a person’s life far after they have had their five minutes of online fame. It’s a lesson that everyone needs to learn. The novel also explores sexting and becoming addicted to Internet porn, both very real issues for all ages.
The book also looks at the different attitudes to males and females with regards to sex. In how men are somehow deemed manly and are revelled if they are highly sexually active, however girls are often broadcast as sluts and deserve everything they get. The inequality is a theme that runs through the book through Ailsa and her husband Harry, as well as their older children. Luke, Romy’s older brother is allowed to bring girls home by the dozen with his parents showing a very relaxed attitude to his private life. And, because he has chosen not to make a live video of said private life that is exactly how it stays.
The sharp writing carries this book along and I found myself thinking about the issues it raises long after I had finished reading it. The characters contain someone that everyone will be able to identify with – even the quirky sex therapists from next door – and the family dynamics make your empathy for each character shift over time.
This book is contemporary and intriguing and definitely something that every adult of teenage children should read. In a world of over-sharing and an Internet that is awake twenty four hours of every day we all need to be thinking about our digital imprint and the effect it could have on our lives and those close to us if something intended to be private reached the wrong fingers tapping at the wrong keyboard.
Thank you to Mumsnet Book Club and Penguin for sending me this book to review. I’d highly recommend it.