August 3rd, 2009


Obsession: Force of Nature

Obsession is a popular theme for fiction: one thinks of Before She Met Me by Julian Barnes or Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love. The difference with Force of Nature *L by Sue Cook is that the obsessive behaviour of one of the main characters stems from a moral dilemma which simply could not have existed just a few years ago.

After years of IVF treatment, Mark and Jenny at last have a lovely daughter, Chloe. Surely that’s enough for them? But they agreed to donate an embryo to another couple, legally renouncing all claims on any potential child and promising never to make contact. Due to some uncharacteristically loose talk from their specialist, Mark finds out that a child exists who is genetically ‘theirs’ and obsessively traces the girl, turning into a stalker. His behaviour tests his marriage to the limit and he agrees to give up his mad quest. In fact, neither Mark nor Jenny ceases to think about this unknown child, Chloe’s genetic sister.

An horrific event stirs everything up again and results in a showdown between parents. Meanwhile, what about the girls? Does each have the right to know of the other’s existence? I won’t give away any more, just say that the book is meticulously researched, that I found it slow in parts (all the technical information) but towards the end was utterly gripped, gasping, ‘Oh, no!’ and ‘Now what!’. This type of issues story is Jodi Picoult territory and she might have written a pacier book about it. In my opinion though, Sue Cook’s version is better than Picoult’s would have been.