Ben and Claire appear to have the perfect life - a loving relationship, a lovely house, successful careers however the one thing missing from their lives is a baby. After many rounds of failed IVF treatment, Claire makes a decision to stop trying, however Ben does not want to give up on their hopes just yet and thereafter things become complicated.
Romily, has been Ben's best friend since university. He is godfather to her 7 year old daughter Posie. Romily is a single mother, a scientist whose unconventional mothering skills sometimes leave a lot to be desired.
On impulse, Romily offers to be a surrogate for Ben and Claire. She doesn't want any more children herself and she sees this as something wonderful she can do for her friend Ben and Claire.
As the story and the pregnancy progresses, all three characters have to reassess their feelings about the surrogacy and the true reason for Romily's well-meaning intentions.
I loved this book from the very start and was immediately drawn into the story. Initially, Claire came across as rather a prickly character, whose obsession with having a baby has now stopped her from interacting with anyone who is pregnant and withdrawing even from her family. Romily and Claire have a rather strained relationship - Romily has always been Ben's friend rather than Claire's and they both have to make an effort to get on, rather than it coming naturally. Ben is so overjoyed that his dream of becoming a father may now happen that he rather naively ignores the warnings from family and friends and it was obvious that he hasn't thought the surrogacy through in any great detail. For me, Romily was the most interesting character. Her life is rather chaotic, but she muddles through with Posie and her letters to her unborn baby (the `Dear Thing' of the title) add an extra dimension to the story. Posie was a delightful character with a voice older than her years.
Each character had enough depth to make the reader care about them and when a face from the past suddenly appears and complicates the arrangement, it is clear that this surrogacy is not going to be as straightforward as had been first thought. The issue of surrogacy is dealt with sensitively and the emotions of all three main characters involved clearly shine through.
This was a compelling read and one which I would highly recommend.
I was intrigued by this book from the very beginning, the blurb on the back of the hardcover copy is a letter written to `Thing', and it gave me enough information to have an idea that the book will be about family, and perhaps a baby, but is mysterious enough that it sparked my curiosity and made me keen to start reading.
Ben and Claire have a wonderful life, they have a nice house, stable jobs, and they are very much in love. The only problem is that they can't have a baby. After endless hospital trips and attempts at IVF, Claire has given up on ever having a much longed for child of her own. Until one night, Ben's best friend Romily offers to have a baby for them. Romily is a single mother to her daughter Posie, living a chaotic life as she tries to juggle work and looking after her daughter. With no desire for another baby herself, but having working eggs and wanting to help her friends out, Romily says she will have a baby for them. However, being pregnant stirs up many emotions and feelings in Romily that she'd rather keep hidden. And is being a surrogate as straightforward as it seems?
This is the first novel about surrogacy that I've read, and I imagine surrogacy is a very difficult topic to write about. However, Julie Cohen really excels in her portrayal of surrogacy, not only from the prospective parents point of view, but for the surrogate who is carrying the baby too. In Dear Thing we get to see things from different points of view: there is Ben who desperately wants a child and is willing to take any option as he is focused on the end result. We also see Claire's point of view, she has put herself through many medial appointments and read so many books on babies and pregnancy, but after accepting the surrogacy option, she realises she has no control over any of it, including how another woman looks after herself and the growing baby inside her. Then there is Romily, who is suddenly struck with the idea of being a surrogate, but when the pregnancy gets going, she finds her hormones may be overwhelming her, and emotions and feelings may be developing no matter how she tries to stop them.
Julie Cohen really enlightens her readers to many aspects of surrogacy, and the fact that although surrogacy is a wonderful and very kind thing for someone to do, there are also many emotions, scenarios and consequences that need to be taken into consideration before embarking on such a choice. And it's not just feelings that need to be thought of, but the effect that a surrogacy will have on all parties involved, including the parents-to-be, the surrogate mother, and any other existing children on both sides. Although at the age of 23, I don't yet have children, the subject of surrogacy definitely had me thinking - If I couldn't have children, would I consider surrogacy? Would I be able to go through it? Would it be the right option for me? I'm certain this book will actually start discussions and encourage talking about surrogacy, and that can only be a good thing as I don't think surrogacy is a subject that is touched upon frequently.
The characters were very well written, they each managed to draw many emotions out of me, including sadness, empathy, frustration, and happiness. Romily was my favourite, I warmed to her straight away as she was a woman who was trying to make the best of all she had and get by in the world, whilst trying to juggle all aspects of her life. I LOVED Posie, I loved her interest in the world around her, the way she was so logical about events, her affection for Ben and Claire, and her questions that had me thinking too! With Ben and Claire, I went back and forth between liking them and being extremely frustrated with them, although in a positive way, this frustration helped me to remember that this wasn't a straightforward situation and encouraged me to think deeper about the many layers involved in following through with this particular choice. I did feel for Claire after everything she had been through, and there were many very well-written scenes where more of Claire's feelings about her personal struggles came out. These scenes broke my heart and were very emotional, and at times I had a lump in my throat and a few tears in my eyes. I liked that throughout the story, even though there are times where the characters can be frustrating, we as readers are given the opportunity to individually feel for these characters, to relate to them, and to understand them.
One of my favourite parts were the heartfelt and emotional letters to `Thing', they touched me and drew me further into story, I loved how personal, and honest these letters were, and it felt as though I was sharing something important with the character.
Dear Thing is an emotional read, as it covers guilt, love, hidden feelings, jealously, sorrow and hope among many others. It is a complex novel with many layers to unravel and devour, and it is a truly gripping read that will have you turning the pages desperate to know what is going to happen next. I finished Dear Thing yesterday morning, and I'm still thinking about it now, this is a truly a story that will stay with you long after you have finished the last sentence. This an excellent novel from Julie Cohen and I would thoroughly recommend it.
on 10 December 2015
This is the best book I have read in a very long time.
Ben and Claire have been trying for a long time to have a baby which is all they want but cannot have.
Their friend Romilly agrees to act as a surrogate.
She thinks it will be so easy to just carry the baby and she won't bond with the baby just hand it over. After all she doesn't want any more children herself
But it isn't so easy.
She starts to develop strong feelings for the unborn child which in turns affects how she feels about her decision and is there a chance she will change her mind?
Ben and Claire find it taking a toll on their marriage.
What will happen?
I cried so hard at this book. which is unusual for me.
I know that this book will appeal everybody.
I got grabbed by page 2 and couldn't put it down.
A really amazing book which I can say is one of my all time favourites.
on 26 June 2014
I first heard about this book while browsing the Richard and Judy bookclub recommendations and as soon as I saw the subject matter I knew I had to read it. I down-loaded it to my kindle instantly and was hooked from the first page.
Ben and Claire appear to have it alll, successful careers, a lovely house and a perfect relationship. However; they have been through several unsuccessful IVF cycles and Claire has decided enough is enough. Ben isn't ready to stop just yet however. Enter his best friend, Romilly. Her life isn't as settled as Ben and Claire's, she lives in a flat with her 7 year old daughter Posie. One night, listening to Ben's troubles, she offers to be their surrogate and this is where the story progresses.
Having been through multiple IVF cycles myself I identified with the desperate yearnings for a baby of my own and this book captured those feelings beautifully. Several times I caught myself wanting to cry for Claire.
This book is well written and I devoured it. I didn't want it to end and can't wait to read more from Julie. In fact, I'd love to revisit these characters again, I miss them!
on 18 May 2014
From what I can remember I haven’t read any of Julie’s books previously so I was excited to discover a new author .
This covers a very controversial subject and one that everyone has a opinion on .
This book is very clever in that it shows you the thoughts and feelings of all those concerned and not just focusing on the surrogate or the mother to be .
Her writing really reminds me of rowan Coleman whose work I have only discovered this year.They write beautifully and with great depth .
This book gave me a greater understanding of a subject I’m very unlikely to be in and in which I was very ignorant about .
I assumed it was quite clear cut but with most subjects it’s really not .
You can relate to both the women but I did relate more to Romily who was bit all over the place and did remind me of me .
All throughout I was trying to figure out how it would end and at one point thought I was right ….
This is cleverly written to make you think and question your own beliefs.
on 9 February 2016
‘Dear Thing’ by Julie Cohen is an exceptionally well written masterpiece. It’s the sort of story that unremittingly tugs at your emotions. It also offers an amazing insight into the world of infertility and the subsequent heartaches that go hand in hand with the decisions that must be made and those that are made for you.
‘Dear Thing’ follows the journey of a young couple, Ben and Clare, who have been trying to conceive through IVF treatment for many years. If that wasn't a struggle enough, their hopes are snatched away again when Clare suffers a miscarriage. Having had her fill of treatment and dreams shattered, Clare makes a decision that rocks her marriage.
Deciding to give up on treatment, Clare expects Ben to be supportive, however his heartbreak is clear and instead of accepting defeat, he looks for answers elsewhere. When Ben’s best friend, Romily offers to be a surrogate, no one would expect the journey that lay ahead of them.
Romily has loved Ben since university. When he met and married Claire, she tortured herself by believing she could remain friends and secretly love him from afar. When she drunkenly offers to carry his baby, she wouldn't expect that months into her pregnancy these feelings would surface. Writing a diary of her feelings in the form of letters to their unborn child, Romily spills her emotions onto the blank pages, writing to the baby she knows that she can never keep.
When Clare finds the diary, all hell breaks loose and Ben must decide which of his mixed feelings between his wife and the woman carrying his child are his future.
The story will keep you in a trance until the very last page, wondering if everyone’s happy endings will come to fruition…
on 27 July 2014
I’ve been waiting for this book to come out in paperback ( I don’t hold with buying hardbacks). I love Julie Cohen’s books and this one sounded particularly intriguing.
Dear Thing is about parents – single parents, reluctant parents, wannabe parents, the lot. Claire and Ben want a baby. Romily, their friend, agrees to be a surrogate parent to Claire and Ben. Of course, it’s not that simple, because Romily has been in love with Ben for years.
This is an interesting love triangle (quadrangle, if you include the baby). The subject of parental love – that bond that connects adults to the children they look after, which goes beyond the mere connection by genetic material – is seen from all kinds of angles. This is a well written, sensitive book.
I particularly liked the character of Claire, who is kind and sensitive and hurting so much from baby-envy that she comes across as prickly. I was totally absorbed in the individual distress of Claire and Romily. I liked Jarvis, but I thought Ben was an insensitive, self centred git.
I read this book until well after midnight and picked it up again first thing the next morning. It's that sort of book. It made me smile. It made me cry. As you’ve probably guessed by now – I loved it.
A young couple, failing to conceive a baby, are on the brink of giving up on parenthood. Claire can't take the invasive procedures any longer. Ben doesn't want to give up but what choice is there? His best friend, Romily, one night drunkenly offers to be their surrogate. Can they accept this generous offer? What will it mean for their relationships? Why is Romily offering to do this?
It sounded like a by-the-numbers female-oriented relationship read. In some ways it was. But I was hooked from the start really, Romily and her daughter Posie made the book stand out somewhat. While you feel for Ben and Claire, after several years of charts, tests, questions and procedures, I didn't feel Ben was very well-drawn and Claire comes across as sometimes too perfect (freezing cakes, hosting other women's birthday parties for their offspring) or jealous and uptight. And why couldn't they adopt?
But Romily is the centre of it all. Hiding a secret she's suppressed for a decade, she becomes pregnant for her best friend, and despite not liking his wife very much. She's much more an average woman - forgetting lunch money, realising a little late her daughter is growing out of her clothes, she could be you in other words. She has a fascinating relationship with her daughter Posie - an accidental pregnancy that she told the father would end in an abortion - Posie calls her by her first name and shows unusual closeness to Ben and Claire (her godparents), pretending to her friends that she is theirs.
The pregnancy and drama over how the relationships change over nine months kept me reading. A few plot twists didn't come as much of a surprise (faces from the past appearing), but I felt drawn to Romily's story and to the idea that she would have to give away the baby she would bear.
Dotted throughout are letters she writes to 'Thing', the foetus that is Ben's child inside her. It's quite well used but I preferred this device in Berlie Doherty's 'Dear Nobody', where it took centre stage.
I can see why it's made the Richard and Judy list. It's quite hard to put down, you do want to know how it will all end.
Not perfect but will keep you reading over the summer.
Married couple Claire and Ben have it all - all except children that is. They've been trying for many years to have their own baby, but sadly things have never happened for them. After a final failed attempt at IVF, Claire decides she has had enough and accepts her life without children in it, despite her pain. When Ben's best friend Romily hears of this, she immediately offers to be a surrogate for them, carrying a baby to term for them and then handing it over once it's born. But Romily has secretly been in love with Ben for years and years. Being pregnant with Ben's baby suddenly brings all her feelings flooding back to the surface, and she's unsure she can go through with the plan. Claire is desperate to have this baby, sure it's only chance to raise her husband's child. What will happen to the baby with 2 mothers who are both desperate to have it?
As you can tell just from the synopsis of the book, it's a quite controversial topic and one that is sure to stir up a lot of emotion in people, both good and bad towards the characters, in particular Romily. Cohen opens the book with Claire and Ben, telling us a bit about their history and letting the reader straight away understand their pain in not being able to have children, and how it is affecting them as a couple. As a mum myself, it's hard to understand the pain of someone who can't have children, but you can't help but sympathise with Claire and Ben, and the extreme efforts they go to conceive themselves. In fact, this only makes what Romily does all the more worse I think! Claire is written so well, she has changed her life in order to be a mum, and I felt desperately sorry for her, and you can understand why she is ready to give up her hopes - she simply can't take the pain and sadness anymore. Cohen doesn't shy away from making Ben's pain and upset just as real too - often the dad-to-be can be forgotten in all the sadness, but he is just as sad as Claire that he can't be a father.
Romily is Ben's best friend, and I found her character very interesting to read about. She has her own daughter Posie, but the pair have a very peculiar relationship. Posie calls her Romily, not mum, and Romily admits she isn't overly maternal, preferring her insects to her daughter at times - she struggles with simply remembering to pay for her daughter's lunch. She seems to make the decision to have a baby for Claire and Ben seemingly too easily and follows it through without thinking of the real consequences of it, and I really did dislike her at points. You can understand her hurting because of her love for Ben, and her desperation to keep the baby is quite sad, you do feel sorry for her, but at the same time, knowing how much Claire wants and can't have a baby, I couldn't make peace with what Romily wanted.
I'm sure there are going to be so many different viewpoints about this book, and I can't wait to hear about what other people think once the book has been read and have had a chance to think the ideas through. Cohen's writing is brilliant - she is able to dive right into the mind's of the main three characters, and provoke such strong reaction from her readers about them. I, for example, liked Ben a lot but wished he would grow a backbone and see things from Claire's side about Romily. He does seem a bit naive but again it's understandable given the circumstances. You're left in limbo right up until the end wondering what decision Romily is going to make, and it did feel like an emotional rollercoaster of a read! The story jumps about between Romily and Claire's stories, but it's so easy to follow and just a joy to read and devour!
This is simply one of the best books I have read so far this year, and I am sure it is one which will stay with me for a long, long time, and I know I will be reading it again too. Dear Thing isn't afraid to dive into the harsh realities of surrogacy, and how everyone involved suffers through the pain of the decisions that can be made, and how nothing is ever as straight-forward as it seems. Despite the fact there is only a few characters through the whole book, it is so intrinsically focused on these characters you don't need anymore - you only want to read about Romily, Ben and Claire and to hope for a happy ending for everyone involved. Cohen's writing was simply brilliant and allowed me to devour the book at such a pace, I just couldn't put it down once I started reading. I hope everyone enjoys this book as much as I have, it's brilliant and I can't recommend it highly enough. Grab a copy of Dear Thing right now, you won't regret it!
on 21 May 2014
I'd heard this book was different from Julie Cohen's usual books, so I didn't know what to expect. I should have known by now that this author captivates the reader's interest and feelings no matter what she's writing.
They story was quite a complex mix of emotions and I had no idea how it was all going to turn out, because the solution wasn't at all easy. They way the author dug into the characters' emotions is extraordinary, because you feel empathy with all of them and understand what they're suffering or experiencing as if you'd gone through it yourself.
I admired the way such a delicate matter was portrayed and how we are made to see everyone's point of view, without taking sides, when it is so easy to judge someone under those circumstances.
The story was perfectly balanced and the end result is a deep, funny, sad and uplifting novel.