Elizabeth Day’s latest novel is a suspenseful psychological thriller in which the themes of infertility, toxic relationships and mental health are constellated around an emotionally astute exploration of motherhood. The book begins from the point of view of 28-year-old Marisa, who makes a living selling personalised children’s storybooks from her website, Telling Tales. She has been single for ages, cycling jadedly between dating apps with little success. But then she meets Jake at a fancy-dress party for singles and he insists that she take his number. Jake is eleven years older and works at a consultancy firm in the City. He brings up the subject of children on their first date, consistently replies to her messages and is undemonstrative but steadfast in his love for her, preferring deeds to words of affection. After only three months of dating, they decide to move into a new house in London together and start trying for a baby.
At first everything is perfect. Then, after a business venture falls through at Jake’s company and money becomes tight for the couple, Jake suggests that they take in a lodger. Marisa hates the idea but keeps quiet, not wanting to give Jake a reason to leave her. So