Publishers Weekly Review of Love Child

Love Child

Sheila Kohler. Penguin, $15 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-14-311919-7

A widowed South African woman of 48 confronts the betrayals of her past in Kohler's graceful new novel (after Becoming Jane Eyre). "Bill" (whose tomboy youth earned her that nickname) lives comfortably with the fortune her husband Mark left her in his will. Having come from a poor family, she's never felt comfortable with wealth; feels judged by her sons, Philip and Mark, who are more responsible than she was at their age; and hasn't even made her own will. The family accountant's arrival at the estate sparks a long recollection of her reckless past. In 1925, at the age of 17, she eloped with a Jewish boy. Her intolerant family convinced her to annul the marriage, and nine months later they took her newborn and gave it away, robbing Bill of her second love. As the story progresses through the first half of the 20th century, Bill becomes a nurse's aide to a depressed, worldly woman named Helen. The two become friends, then competitors, as Helen's husband, Mark, increasingly turns his attention toward Bill. Kohler's tale is full of tension, haunting images, and admirable restraint. (July)