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An Unsettling, Thought-Provoking, and Utterly Addictive Read: Review of Melanie Golding’s Little Darlings

May 7, 2019

The twins are crying.
The twins are hungry.

Lauren is crying.
Lauren is exhausted.

Behind the hospital curtain, someone is waiting…

Little Darlings by Melanie Golding is an unsettling, thought-provoking, and utterly addictive read that will send chills up every mother’s spine.

Lauren Tranter has just experienced a traumatic birth, and is now alone in the maternity ward with her twin sons. She is exhausted and emotional, but not crazy: that night, in her hospital room, a strange woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own. “I’ll take yours and you can have mine.”

Yet there is no sign of this woman on security cameras. No one remembers seeing a woman come close to Lauren, or her babies. They don’t believe anyone was ever there. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things. Everyone, that is, except for Joanna Harper, a detective sergeant who has her own interesting backstory, and a gut feeling that Lauren is telling the truth.

Once home, we are propelled into Lauren’s lonely world: a struggling new mother, isolated from others, with zero support from her misogynistic husband. It is a raw, honest reflection of how the early days of motherhood can be for many women. But is she mad, or does she know something we don’t? When Lauren sees the woman again, however, no one believes her. Those around her think she is hallucinating. Lauren begins to question her own state of mind, too. As does the reader.

A month passes. Lauren is still convinced her babies are in danger. With every step she takes to keep her children safe, Lauren sinks deeper into paranoia and fear. Her husband has lost all patience. To appease him, she takes the twins for a walk to the park. There, she falls asleep for a moment, and when she wakes, her sons are missing. They are soon found, but while everyone celebrates the safe return of the babies, Lauren is adamant… they are not her sons. The infants look like Morgan and Riley―to everyone else. But Lauren knows her sons and these two babies are not hers.

Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life. The book really hits its stride from here and I was gripped all the way to its powerful climax.

Little Darlings draws on traditional folklore and Grimm’s fairy tales about changelings, while also digging deep into themes of postnatal depression and mental health. Is Lauren having a breakdown? Or is something way more sinister happening? And ultimately, Little Darlings is a powerful exploration of a mother’s love.

Compulsive, creepy, and inspired by some of our darkest fairy tales, Little Darlings will have you checking―and rechecking―your own little ones. Just to be sure. Just to be safe.

I haven’t stopped talking about this book. I’ve been taking great pleasure in regaling my friends with the story, just to see their eyes bulge. Macabre I know, but I want everyone to be as disturbed as I am. This is a dark, suspenseful debut, a complete page-turner.

I couldn’t put it down, but I’ll admit it…I was so creeped out, I slept with the light on.

Buy a copy of Little Darlings here

About the author:

Melanie Golding is a recent graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, with distinction. Her short stories have been chosen to be recorded as podcasts by the Leicester-based festival Story City in 2015 and 2016, and to be performed at both the regular Stroud Short Stories event and their special ‘best of’ event at Cheltenham Literature Festival. In 2017 she won the short story prize at the Mid Somerset Festival, as well as the Evelyn Sanford trophy for highest mark in the prose class.

She has taught creative writing in prisons and Young Offenders Institutions, as well as teaching music in a school for boys with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. She is now a full-time registered childminder and splits her time between that and writing. Little Darlings is her debut novel and has been optioned for screen by Free Range Films, the team behind the adaptation of My Cousin Rachel.


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