The opening sentence of the prologue of Bone by Bone by Sanjida Kay prepares the reader for a gruesome read and from the text a suspiscion that a child has been murdered.
When Autumn had first started at Ashley Grove in September, Laura had been as nervous as her daughter. She’d been worried about Autumn – if she’d make new friends, if she’d fit in – as well as for herself – would the other mothers like her?
Laura is making a fresh start. Newly divorced and relocated to Bristol, she is carving a new life for her and her nine-year-old daughter, Autumn. But things aren’t going as well as she hoped. Autumn is being bullied.
‘Autumn. What kind of dumb name is that? Who’d call their kid that? It’s like say, “Hey, November, come in for your tea.”’ …As he continued, calling her more random and ridiculous names, the boys in her own class started to laugh too, and some of the girls put their hands over their mouths and smirked.
The action takes place over seven months from October to May. The perspective alternates between Laura and Autumn. Not only does this give the reader an insight into how a mother might deal with a bullying situation or not as in this instance, but also the child perspective.
This is a clever device for a book about bullying as it not only illustrates the mother’s worry and powerlessness, but also the vulnerability of being a child who is bullied. A vulnerability created by not wanting to make a fuss, by hoping that the bullying will stop, by believing in the good of people in general.
When the bullying doesn’t stop, Laura makes a mistake with dreadful consequences. Autumn fails to return home from school one day and Laura goes looking for her and happens upon a crowd of bullies taunting her little girl. Rage overcomes Laura and spills into violence.
Something inside her snapped. She wanted to kill him. He was so close to her that it only took a shift in her weight,a slight movement forwards and she was right there, her hands on his chest, and then she pushed, as hard as she could.
In the heat of the moment, Laura makes a terrible mistake. A mistake that will have devastating consequences for her and her daughter. But Laura can not anticipate just what those consequences will be, and just how much worse things can become. Friendships begin to unravel, leaving Laura and Autumn even more isolated and lonely.
Autumn was acutely aware of the space that had opened up around her. She was alone. no one spoke to her. it was difficult to breathe. She stared down at her shoes on the cracked Tarmac of the playground, a tree root visible beneath the asphalt.
There is an underlying sense of unease throughout the novel as the reader waits for the anticipated murder. As Laura and Autumn struggle with incident after incident, the inaction of the school, of the bully, of his father and of the other parents, the narrative builds and builds to an unexpected climax.
Sanjida Kay is a writer and broadcaster. Bone by Bone is her first thriller. She lives in Bristol with her daughter and husband.
You can follow Sanjida on Twitter: @SanjidaOConnell
Psychological thriller, Bone by Bone, by Sanjida Kay, published by Corvus Books. Out 3.3.2016