Magazine article The Spectator

Infant Identity Crisis

Magazine article The Spectator

Infant Identity Crisis

Article excerpt

LITTLE FACE by Sophie Hannah Hodder, £18.99, pp. 358, ISBN 0340840315

Women in peril flit through the pages of traditional Gothic fiction, murmuring 'Had I but known!' as they fall for the wrong man, open the wrong door or apply for the wrong job. The poet Sophie Hannah takes the trusty formula in both hands, gives it a vigorous shake and uses it to produce something fascinating and original in her first novel.

In this case the woman in question is Alice. Still reeling from the death of her parents in a car crash, she has married the dashing David and acquired a new family in the shape of his welcoming (and wealthy) mother Vivienne and his son Felix by a previous marriage. David's first wife was murdered, but the killer was caught and is now in jail.

Alice moves into the lavishly equipped family home. The novel starts at the point when her happiness should be complete -- a fortnight after the birth of her baby, Florence. Alice returns from a brief trip to the health club and instantly raises the alarm -- Florence has been kidnapped, and in her place has been left an almost identical baby wearing Florence's Babygro.

But David is convinced that the baby in the nursery is their daughter; Alice must have gone mad. Vivienne is unsure whom to believe. The police are summoned.

Pending the results of a DNA test, there is no way to prove whether the baby in the nursery is Florence or not. As David becomes increasingly hostile, Alice struggles to make the police take her seriously. …

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