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The Child Who: A Novel Paperback – February 28, 2012

3.7 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“And just when you think Lelic has said all he intends to say about society’s hysterical fear of violent children, he gives the subject one last, diabolical twist.” — Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

“Gripping… The much acclaimed, award-winning British writer Simon Lelic continues to impress with his second psychological thriller, The Child Who.” — Houston Chronicle

"British author Lelic follows his acclaimed debut, A Thousand Cuts, with an equally gripping psychological thriller also inspired by a horrific real-life crime…Lelic dares to make his lead less than Atticus Finch…and the plot unfolds in a way few readers will anticipate." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"By page three, Simon Lelic's harrowing and haunting novel The Child Who has you utterly in its snares. A daring writer but also a deeply open- hearted one, he renders his flawed but sympathetic characters with the most tender of hands, heightening the tale's suspense and drawing us even closer." — Megan Abbott, author of The End of Everything

"Lelic faces thorny issues of guilt and responsibility head on, and no one comes out unscathed." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"An agile, perceptive writer...Could this be Lelic's breakthrough book? It deserves to be." — The Guardian (UK)

“Lelic’s three novels are breakneck, intelligent ‘social thrillers’ that even invade my dream-life.”—David Mitchell — David Mitchell

About the Author

Simon Lelic has worked as a journalist and currently runs his own business. He was born in Brighton, England in 1976 and lives there now with his wife and two sons. This is his first novel.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 18 and up
  • Grade Level: 12 and up
  • Paperback: 303 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 1 edition (February 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780143120919
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143120919
  • ASIN: 0143120913
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,115,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By TChris TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 7, 2012
Format: Paperback
Leo Curtice -- the solicitor representing Daniel Blake, a twelve-year-old boy accused of brutally murdering Felicity Forbes, an eleven-year-old girl -- has the biggest case of his career. His fifteen-year-old daughter, Ellie, doesn't want her father to take the case, but after spending his career "mopping up the spillage" from tavern brawls, Leo wants a meatier challenge, a high profile client. He isn't prepared for the public's reaction: a mob nearly overturns his van, students throw red ink on his daughter's coat, a supermarket shopper spits on his wife. To the small-minded residents of Exeter, an accusation is proof of guilt, a lawyer is just as guilty as his client, and the lawyer's family merits the same condemnation as the accused.

The head teacher at one of the many schools Daniel attended insists that Daniel was born bad. Yet Daniel's stepfather is no model of self-restraint. To mitigate Daniel's punishment, Leo knows that Daniel needs to talk to a psychologist who can get to the bottom of Daniel's antisocial behavior. Daniel's stepfather steadfastly resists that suggestion, leaving the reader to wonder what the stepfather is trying to hide. The answer is surprising.

The media would have children like Daniel "breaking boulders, even before they had been convicted of a crime." Never mind that he's twelve. Never mind his horrible childhood. He committed a crime and the eye-for-an-eye crowd demands retribution. Their attitude echoes John Major: "We need to condemn a little more and understand a little less" -- as if understanding why people act as they do is a bad thing.

Simon Lelic does a remarkable job of getting inside the young boy's head and of conveying society's unthinking hatred of him. Reading The Child Who is an intense experience.
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Format: Paperback
My thoughts on this one were rather mixed. I'll start with the good: the subject matter. The subject and the ethical questions associated with dealing with crimes by youth is fascinating to me. Given the horrid nature of his crimes, should Daniel be tried as an adult? Does his youth mean that he shouldn't be culpable?

Reading this book really made me think about these questions and innumerable others. I also thought, too, about the reactions people had to Daniel's crime. All of the flak that Leo took for trying to do his job and be this kid's solicitor was ridiculous. I just fail to understand why anyone would send him hate mail or protest him for fulfilling his role in the country's justice system.

Moving into the problems here...I think I would have preferred this if it were from the perspective of a child psychologist or something like that. Leo's understanding of Daniel is limited, and we see through his eyes any time Daniel's actually present. Even when he gets Daniel to talk, he doesn't know the right questions to ask or have any analysis to bear. Even when he gets a psychologist to speak with Daniel and she diagnoses a couple of things, nothing really comes of it because Leo isn't smart enough or isn't the right kind of smart to do anything with it.

What really got to me, though, was the writing style. For one thing, the sentences are really simple, which could be a stylistic decision, but just made the whole thing choppy and hard to read. Also, the third person narration tended to follow along with a character, but who changed from chapter to chapter. Lots of authors use this technique, but, here, it was rather difficult to parse.
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Simon Lelic hails from Brighton England where he was born in 1976 and where he moved back to after a decade spent in London. He received an MA in history from Exeter and later took a post graduate class in journalism. In addition to his writing, Simon operates an import/export business and has worked as a freelance journalist and in business-to-business publishing. Simon is currently pursuing his interest in writing novels of which he has three: "Rupture", "The Facility" and "The Child Who".

"The Child Who" written by Simon Lelic is of the murder/mystery genre of fiction novels. The writing style is variously complex and lengthy with liberal use of commas and a mixed narration that mimics conversation at times. Occasionally, close attention is required to discern meaning where comma delimited references appear seeming to substitute for parenthetical references.

The story in main is about a young boy, one Daniel Blake, who inexplicably murders his schoolmate Felicity Forbes and about a lawyer, one Leo Curtice and his family that becomes involved in the case when Leo attempts to represent Daniel before the court of jurisprudence and the court of public opinion.

This novel seems to have some difficulty right from the start. There seems to be background missing that would ordinarily have provided the reader with a sense of the outrage that the author alludes to in the composition. While the murder by a 12 year old is certainly a horrific ordeal, the implication that the boy was publicly loathed just short of lynching just doesn't surface. Add to this, then, the reaction of Leo Curtice's family and things just don't seem to fit right.
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