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4.1 out of 5 stars
Force of Nature
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on 13 April 2014
Other than biographies I never buy fiction written by celebrities who are trading on their fame in other areas. Sue Cook's book is a welcome exception. Sue, of course, is not an actress although she's spent a great part of her working career in front of the cameras as a journalist. Her sharp observation of human traits and foibles, together with her ability to tell a story that grabs and holds the reader must come from her journalistic experience and I found the story and subplots in Force of Nature enthralling. I won't say I couldn't put it down, because I did, while reading it on holiday, but between readings I found myself wondering what I would did given the same set of circumstances as the main protagonist..... (teaser alert!) would I go out of my way to find out the identity and whereabouts of a child I'd fathered through IVF, given an inadvertant hint. If I did, what would it do to my family.
This isn't a detective or adventure story, although there are elements of both in the book. This is a highly perceptive psychological story told by someone who obviously understands people and what motivates them.
To cap it all, it's very well written which certainly helps!
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on 8 December 2011
Sue Cook has obviously done her research but she wears it lightly. She turns it into a story that is deftly plotted, nicely observed, warmly written and kept me guessing to the end. The characters find themselves in a hell of territorial feelings, insecurities, mistrust and resentment. Somehow they have to find an uneasy equilibrium. A real journey.
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on 11 March 2016
as described
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VINE VOICEon 11 July 2009
The tag line on the cover is 'the trouble with a secret is that someone always knows it' and this is very canny marketing as you start to wonder what it is and even if you flick through the book it is not immediately apparent and no clues in the opening pages. We meet Mark Elflick, a troubled man with a secret, who is lying to his wife as he drives off to park and watch the residents of a particular house in a particular street. We wonder why he is doing this and as we see he is watching and trailing a mother and child, we begin to get a bit edgy....

Mark and his wife Jenny have a daughter Chloe who was conceived using IVF and after years of striving for this long awaited child, they should be happy but Mark has discovered the whereabouts of another daughter born to a couple using one of their remaining embryos left when Jenny could not use any more of them due to a hysterectomy. Somewhere out there is a child, who is genetically theirs, and he becomes obsessed with seeing this other child, and checking that she is well and happy and has gone to good parents.

Having signed away all legal rights to these embryos he is on dangerous ground and is persuaded by his wife to leave well alone, but is arrested by the police some years later when he is found loitering outside Leonie's school when once more he is concerned for her welfare after the violent death of her mother. While I have every sympathy with Mark and his desire to know what is happening to his daughter, he has no rights at all and Leonie's father, having just lost his wife, is quite rightly antagonistic towards his intrusion in his life and that of his unknowing daughter.

I found Mark an incredibly selfish and obsessive personality and found it hard to evoke any sympathy for him, my sympathies were all with the 'other' father, but this is a mark of the standard of writing and characterisation that I felt this way, and perhaps that was the whole idea. He is selfish, he is obsessive, but he is also tormented by the knowledge that he has another child and cannot come to terms with it.

So, we are back to the 'nature v nurture' debate. You are biological parents and have had nothing to do with the child's upbringing, but surely characteristics inherited must come out at some stage, or will the nurturing and love of the other parents win out? There is no easy answer to this and in Force of Nature the pitfalls of such technology and the impact on the children involved are beautifully illustrated. Making these the basis of a novel is an excellent way of making us think about these matters, an article in a medical journal or a documentary on the TV might not have the same impact nor reach a wide audience, but a well written and compelling book, which this is, will succeed in doing so.

'Modern science can do wonderful things. It can help the blind to see and the lame to walk. It can give a childless couple a longed for baby. What it can't do is control human emotions'

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VINE VOICEon 15 May 2009
I know I'm going against the general opinion here but I have mixed feelings for this book.

On the plus side, it was very easy to read and it took me about four days. The plot was really good and interesting. I have never read a book on the subject matter and this told me all I needed to know, without being too scientific or "wordy".

However, the character's felt very two-dimensional, making it difficult to imagine the situation they were in. Certain events were rushed, almost as if the author wanted to get onto the next point as quickly as possible. Also, I didn't enjoy the ending. After all the fighting and arguing, it just wasn't realistic (and again felt rushed).

Worth reading, just don't expect too much x
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on 30 June 2009
This is Sue Cook's characteristic genre -- ordinary, believable people subjected to extraordinary circumstances.

It's strange how what might once have been considered science-fiction is now everyday reality, as science makes the unimagined possible. The trouble is, as human beings and society, are we ready to deal with what is now possible? Can our laws, customs, culture and expectations of what is 'normal' keep up with what is possible?

Despite its grave subject matter, this book is easy to read and moves quickly. Sue Cook paints readily recognisable characters in familiar domestic settings, and then places them in a gut-wrenching, but credible, situation. The emotional impact is enormous; the reader has no trouble experiencing the characters' insecurity, longing, pain and fear -- and imagining oneself in the same situation. What would I do?

One might become frustrated with the actions of individual characters, but it is not possible to be indifferent. This is how a well-written book draws you in.

This is an excellent, intelligent, thought-provoking, but highly accessible read -- which is never a struggle to get through.

I recall thinking, when I had a spare moment: "I'll relax on the sofa and continue reading 'Force of Nature'." Only to remember suddenly, with disappointment, that I had already finished it. That is the sign of a good book.
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on 30 May 2009
Sue Cook's book is about a couple who, after successfully having a child of their own using IVF, donate their remaining embryos and later find out that one of their embryo donations was successful and somewhere out there they have another genetic daughter.

In this book club Sue Cook explores the effect that scientific advances have on ordinary lives, which raises the fascinating topic of whether the law in this country is keeping up with science.

However, most of all what I like about this book is it is an incredibly enjoyable read. It is obvious that Sue is a trained psychologist as she has great insight in to how ordinary human beings might be affected by extra-ordinary events - there are no bad people in this book, all the characters are well-rounded decent people with whom one can empathise, and as a reader one can appreciate the emotions and difficulties they have in each of their different situations.

This book made me laugh and cry - I was going to finish reading it on holiday but I had finished before the plane touched down.
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on 14 April 2009
This is a wonderfully written heartfelt exploration of what just may happen if/when you donate eggs. The exploration of feelings on both sides is sensitive/caring and illuminating. I thoroughly enjoyed every page and it did leave me not just thinking but very positive even though the situation did not apply to me personally. A good read and I would recommend highly. Nicole
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on 17 April 2009
Like the film classic "Brief Encounter", Cook finds the most emotionally charged drama right here in "ordinary people's" lives, which is why this novel speaks to us all with such irresistible force and conviction. Great storytellers touch us so intensely because they have enormous empathy and compassion for their characters but are utterly ruthless with the situations they put them in. In short, they understand life. They are willing to dig deep to confront and unravel the complex business of living, thus arousing our emotions where we least expect it..in our own hearts and imaginations. Cook displays all these qualities effortlessly and lets the gentle flame of her story slowly and surely consume the reader in an unforgettable experience. I absolutely loved it and was moved to tears several times. Read it.
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on 16 July 2011
This book in my opinion was poorly written with an unrealistic plot and unlikely characters. Teenage girls collecting model ponies? There were also time errors such as ipods being around in the 1990s. Overall, a disappointing read and the comparison to Jodi Picoult is an insult to her writing.
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