*I requested the opportunity to read Little Bandaged Days via Netgalley. The decision to read was my own and this review forms my honest opinion.
A mother moves to Geneva with her husband and their two young children. In their beautiful new rented apartment, surrounded by their rented furniture, and several Swiss instructions to maintain quiet, she finds herself totally isolated. Her husband’s job means he is almost never present, and her entire world is caring for her children – making sure they are happy, and fed and comfortable, and that they can be seen as the happy, well-fed, comfortable family they should be. Everything is perfect.
But, of course, it’s not. The isolation, the sleeplessness, the demands of two people under two, are getting to Erika. She has never been so alone, and once the children are asleep, there are just too many hours to fill until morning . . .
Kyra Wilder’s Little Bandaged Days is a beautifully written, painfully claustrophobic story about a woman’s descent into madness. Unpredictable, frighteningly compelling and brutally honest, it grapples with the harsh conditions of motherhood and this mother’s own identity, and as the novel continues, we begin to wonder just what exactly Erika might be driven to do.
Being a mother wasn’t something I ever yearned for. But once I got engaged to my husband it became clear that motherhood was the expected Next Step, and despite a lifetime of being, quite honestly, pretty indifferent towards having children I found myself swept along with the perfect fantasy that was having a baby.
The reality was a shock. I grappled with my loss of identity, the lack of love I felt for my little boy and the way I felt fundamentally stripped of everything I thought I was and could be.
I was diagnosed with postnatal depression within three months of my son’s birth.
Little Bandaged Days by Kyra Wilder is a book I wish I had read beforehand. Please don’t get me wrong, I love my children and I wouldn’t swap them now – but I wish I had been more prepared for the harsh realities of having children. I had no point of reference save the older generation who only, with the benefit of several decades of hindsight, saw the beauty of it.
There is tons of stuff out there that shines a light on motherhood. But so much of it seems to be laced with humour, which certainly has its place, especially when sometimes you’re not sure whether to laugh or cry, but at times it can feel as if it can trivialise the daily struggle.
I was much like Erika, the mother in the novel. Miles away from my family, friends and any sort of support system – I was isolated. My saviour was my husband. He worked long hours, but he was there when I needed him. A support that Erika doesn’t have.
A character-driven story, Little Bandaged Days is not an easy read. It’s incredibly claustrophobic and dizzyingly disorienting. At times it was as if the author had plucked buried emotions from within me and placed them within her character. I often feel empathy for characters and I’m often moved to tears, but this was on another level. I found the descriptions so vivid and the emotions conveyed to be so raw, that I was there, transported and in the moment with her.
I feel like this review is less about the novel and more about me – but to me, this novel was personal and I’ve had trouble disentangling my own emotions from those of the character; somewhere during reading they kind of mashed together. But, this speaks loudly for the authenticity of the character’s experience, and also for the power of the author’s writing in being able to so genuinely convey these emotions.
It was these emotions and the increasing randomness of thought as Erika descends into madness that create an overwhelming tension that left me holding my breath in anticipation for something terrible to happen. Her unreliability as a narrator only serves to ramp up the tension further as I was left to desperately sift through the chaotic prose for a hint of what was real. It is an uncomfortably close first person narration and it is unapologetic in the way in which gaping holes are left for the imagination of the reader to fill. For this reason, I can imagine it will be a Marmite kind of book. But for me, the often leaping prose serves to perfectly demonstrate the fraying ends of sanity.
I’ve seen so many reviews around on Twitter for this novel, but as is my own personal blogging rule – I never read a review of a book I’m due to read myself. Once this is live, I’ll be reading reviews, as I’m interested to see if my strong connection to this book is due to my own experience, or whether it chimes with other women and mothers; I’m especially keen to see how this translates to those who are yet to/cannot have/choose not to have children.
There is a stigma, as there is with all mental health issues, but as you open up and talk to other women, it’s incredible to note just how many women have gone through it. Fear and shame silence too many women and it is only by talking about these things that they become normalised.
I think that this is a book that should be read by all young women. Not as a scare tactic but as a truthful narrative of just how isolating motherhood can be. Balance is needed, and for all the wonderment there is in becoming a mother – and there is – for many, there is also darkness and it is this darkness that needs to become a part of everyday conversation.
Deeply affecting – Little Bandaged Days is a highly emotive and relevant read. It won’t be for everyone, but as far as I’m concerned it is an incredibly important book and one which should get noticed.