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Fiction / Thriller
Published by Head of Zeus 2018
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The second in a series of psychological thrillers set in the South Lakes community of Tarnside.
What if someone threatened your happily ever after?
A brilliantly suspenseful domestic noir about family, motherhood, and choosing the right people to trust.
Eve and Neil live in the beautiful Cumbrian town of Tarnside. After years of trying for a baby, they are in the final stages of adopting four-year-old Milly.
They just have to pass the 'settling in' period – three months of living together as a family under watchful eyes – and then they can make it official.
For Eve, her heartbreak is nearly at an end. She now has this perfect little girl in her life, a little girl who calls her mummy.
But Eve's dream of a happy family is fragile. One accusation, could smash Eve's family to pieces.
"Chillingly authentic, this story of adoption and family conflict shows that domestic abuse manifests in many ways and sometimes so subtly the victim is unaware of it until they have lost themselves completely."
"a brave novel with real issues, and set in a tight moving suspense filled time frame that pulled you onwards towards the critical deadlines that the adoption process sets you in."
"An absorbing, realistic story, which sends chills down your spine because this could happen. If you enjoy domestic thrillers with a sinister twist, this is one to read.."
"I devoured the pages."."
"I found it exciting and intriguing with characters that I cared for and enough twistyness of plot to keep me hooked. This is a very good read and one that I am sure many readers will enjoy."
"Nuanced characters and fabulous descriptions of settings.."
The Politics of Mothering
Zosia Wand on the inspiration behind The Accusation
Mothering is a doing word. Practical. Busy. It suggests a woman with a dishcloth in her hand and a strong back, issuing instructions while organising a meal, timetables, shopping lists, laundry. She may well be running a business or working shifts while juggling this. We are, after all, the generation who in order to have it all, are doing it all. ‘She’ may be a ‘he’, of course. Mothering isn’t about gender, it’s the job of bringing up the next generation and that’s everyone’s responsibility. As I started to write this piece I felt a bit embarrassed. Mothering is often dismissed as a trivial, sentimental subject, exclusively female and therefore not as important as politics, or the future of the planet, but mothering is about the future of the planet. The fact that I hesitated over this, is precisely why it’s political.
Whatever I set out to write, my stories always end up, on some level, being about mothering. It’s never the traditional story, but always something more complex and irregular. I am interested in the mothering that takes place outside the normal structures. The quiet, generally unrecognised nurturing that comes from an instinctive kindness and compassion and the impact that can have on our lives; the neighbour, the aunt, the teacher. True, unconditional love can manifest itself in the most unexpected places and heal wounds, creating bonds and forging alternative families.
What does it mean to be a mother? Is it about blood? Is it about devotion and sacrifice? At what point does it move from protecting and nurturing to letting go and how do we navigate that? These were the questions I wanted to explore in The Accusation.
I did not set out write about adoption. I was writing about Eve, a woman , struggling with a controlling and possessive mother who would not allow her to grow up. I wanted to challenge the notion that all mothers are fundamentally nurturing and self-sacrificing. Some are not, for many varied and complicated reasons. These stories are seldom heard.
It was obvious that things should reach a climax for my protagonist, Eve, when she became a mother herself. I was writing a thriller. I needed to raise the stakes. By introducing an adopted child, I increased the dramatic change to motherhood. When you adopt there is no development in the womb, no physical and visual sign that you are preparing to become a family. The preparation is all unseen and psychological. One day there is no child and the next day there is. By making Milly almost five years old when Eve and Neil adopt her, I increased that impact further. And by setting the novel during the three month settling in period, when the child is still under the guardianship of the local authority, I introduced another level of jeopardy. Milly could be removed at any time. This new family were extremely vulnerable.
I have two daughters. Adopted four years apart, from different birth families. There is no diagnosed reason why we didn’t have our own children; it simply didn’t happen, and we decided to adopt rather than explore fertility treatment. I was surprised by the responses I had to this decision. My own GP said “Aren’t you too old to adopt?” I was 34 . I remember leaving that consulting room with my face stinging as if I’d been slapped.
There are many myths pedaled about adoption. People assume you have to be young, that you won’t be able to adopt a baby, that nosy social workers will pry into your personal life, go through your bank statements, demand to know the most intimate details of your relationship, that shameful secrets from your extended family will be exposed and you will be found wanting. None of this was true. Our social worker was an intelligent, respectful woman who got to know us well and eventually became a good friend. The process of assessment involved interesting discussions about parenting and thoughtful reflection on our own upbringing and the sorts of parents we might be. It took us about eighteen months from our first enquiry to be matched with a baby girl who came to us at ten months old from her wonderfully warm foster family.
I won’t lie, our adoption process wasn’t without its difficulties, but then, from what I hear, the same can be said of pregnancies. The first social worker that came to us had some very fixed ideas about adoption and we didn’t get along. I asked if we could meet someone else and that turned out to be a wonderful connection. We had difficulties again when communication with the team representing our daughter became difficult, as a result of under-staffing, but that was also addressed. Since hearing our story and meeting our daughters, I know of three other families who have gone on to adopt who had not considered the possibility before. In The Accusation, I had the opportunity to use my adoption experience, not only to heighten the dramatic possibilities of my plot, but also to debunk some of the myths that are preventing people from considering adoption as a possibility. The book is dedicated to our social worker and all those like her, who are so often depicted as irresponsible, careless characters in drama and fiction, when the reality is that most of them are doing their best in very difficult circumstances, to salvage families. Let’s face it, no-one goes into social work for money and status. It’s too easy to place blame on those who are brave and selfless enough to take responsibility on our behalf. They deserve to be depicted as three-dimensional characters, at the very least.
This novel also allowed me to describe how it feels to be an adoptive parent: the insecurities, the initial isolation (no prenatal classes or new mums’ networks), the complicated negotiations with birth families and extended families, but – most of all – the feeling of responsibility and privilege. The duty of care. And as I write that I realise, that this will be the same for a baby that is born to you. So in writing about my very particular experience, I am also writing about something that will resonate further. Mothering is a complicated and wonderful thing. It is about so much more than giving birth. It’s not about blood. It’s about unconditional love, compassion and generosity. It’s about caring, and not just for your own. That’s why, on Mothers’ Day, I send cards to women who are not my mother, but whose mothering extends to me.