Little Darlings by Melanie Golding
Published by HQ, 2019
My rating: ⭐ ⭐
Following an unsettling encounter in the hospital, a young mother becomes convinced that her new-born twins are under threat of abduction. Drawing on changeling myths, the book taps into our fear of not being believed, and strikes a successfully ambiguous line between the supernatural and the struggles of mental health.
The prose itself isn’t exactly flashy, but it does a fine job of propelling the narrative forward. The concept is solid, and there are a couple of suitably creepy moments. I was genuinely intrigued, and wanted to see how everything would turn out, but therein lies my main issue with the book: it hits every single narrative beat you’d expect. A thriller that plays with fairy tale tropes, and flirts with the murky line between psychology and the possibly supernatural should be able to toy with reader expectations and provide satisfying twists. Instead, it all panned out exactly as I expected. This isn’t helped by the fact that the book opens with a brief glimpse of the story’s climax before jumping back in time to show us how we end up there. Knowing where we were going, predicting exactly how we would get there, and being unsurprised by how it all turned out left me feeling very underwhelmed, even if the reading experience itself was perfectly fine.
Some of the characterisation felt off to me as well, particularly with the protagonist’s husband. In one scene, he is selfish, cruel and disinterested, to the point of being a caricature. In the next, he is loving and supportive to the point of being sickly sweet. I understand that some people are like this, hiding their abusive personalities under a mask of kindness. But the dichotomy in his character went completely unexplored, meaning it came off as inconsistency rather than complexity.
We’ve seen many stories that explore the idea of changelings. I hoped this one would offer something original and genuinely disturbing, but sadly it just didn’t quite deliver on either of these fronts, being let down instead by its familiarity and reliance on coincidence.
On a positive note, one of the main characters is bisexual. Her sexuality has no bearing on the plot and is merely incidental. This kind of normalised representation of diversity is great! I also hope my largely negative review doesn’t detract from how quickly I flew through this. It was an easy, escapist read, and though it didn’t offer anything new, it was fine enough to spend a few evenings with.
If you’d like to give Little Darlings a go, you can find a copy by clicking here. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!