A Little Stranger
by Kate Pullinger
This novel is about how to solve an intractable problem the hard way.
Pullinger’s characters are intelligent, lively, young and in love. Fran and Nick enjoy a good marriage and have great sex. In the beginning they both go to work in interesting jobs. Between them they earn enough to pay the bills and the mortgage and go to galleries, the theatre, clubs, out to dinner together, meet their friends, take taxis, holiday abroad, they buy clothes, presents, cosmetics, and out of the way things. They revel in all that London has to offer. They are still so much in love that they decide to have a baby. After the little boy, Louis, is born, Fran gives up her job to look after him. For four years. Without her salary they are not exactly poor, but cannot afford child care. She changes Louis’ nappies, baths him, reads to him, makes bottles and little meals, pushes the buggy to the park and to the shops. She loves Louis dearly, and is conscientious about his well being and his check-ups. She cleans, washes, irons, washes up, makes and changes the beds, and copes with the occasional tantrum. And it bores her out of her mind - literally.
Nick’s work is demanding and all-important now that he is the only bread winner. He comes home tired to a clean house and a happy, healthy child. He loves it all. He knows that Fran is quiet at times, perhaps even a bit stir-crazy from time to time, and they both look forward to when she can go back to work. What more can he do? She doesn’t whine or try to make him feel guilty. Nick is only half aware that the routine is deadening. Even Fran’s handbag is heavy with Louis’ needs, beside her make-up, passport, and purse.
One day she leaves the house. She doesn’t plan anything. Pullinger takes us with Fran, out of the house, to the tube station, and onto the plane.........
A LITTLE STRANGER is well written, of course. The characters are attractive people, the pace is compelling and the plot unpredictable. The reader knows perfectly well how the characters feel. Only a brute would judge Fran: “Why can’t she just think of motherhood as a protracted holiday from work and get on with it?” or “They planned to have this child, they did the sums, what did she expect?” And we all know people far worse off than she is, but still, we do know how and why she gets into that mental mess.
You will not put this book down until the very last page.