Can bad children happen
to good mothers?

The Golden Child

Out Now!

“an engaging and intimate read that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty and Jodi Picoult,
with nods to Lionel Shriver and Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap. It’s highly recommended…”

Books + Publishing

The Golden Child

Can bad children happen to good mothers? A totally absorbing novel, for readers of Liane Moriarty, Lionel Shriver and Christos Tsiolkas.

Blogger Lizzy’s life is buzzing, happy, normal. Two gorgeous children, a handsome husband, destiny under control. For her real-life alter-ego Beth, things are unravelling. Tensions are simmering with her husband, mother-in-law and even her own mother. Her teenage daughters, once the objects of her existence, have moved beyond her grasp and one of them has shown signs of, well, thoughtlessness …

Then a classmate of one daughter is callously bullied and the finger of blame is pointed at Beth’s clever, beautiful child. Shattered, shamed and frightened, two families must negotiate worlds of cruelty they are totally ill-equipped for.

This is a novel that grapples with modern-day spectres of selfies, selfishness and cyberbullying. It plays with our fears of parenting, social media and Queen Bees, and it asks the question: just how well do you know your child?

Nicola Moriarty

This book is utterly brilliant. I just don’t even know where to start with a review – it was compelling, it was tragic, it was clever, it was frightening, it was heartbreaking, it was shocking and it gave me shivers and it made me question myself as a parent.

Books + Publishing

"an engaging and intimate read that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty and Jodi Picoult, with nods to Lionel Shriver and Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap. It’s highly recommended…"

Danielle Hawkins

Brilliant. Such a clever plot, and such real characters, and so very, very well written.

Angela Savage

What a fantastic read... another triumph.

About Wendy James

Wendy James is the mother of two sets of siblings born eight years apart, in the digital and pre-digital ages. She is the author of seven novels, including the bestselling The Mistake. Her debut novel, Out of the Silence, won the 2006 Ned Kelly Award for first crime novel, and was shortlisted for the Nita May Dobbie award for women’s writing. She works as an editor at the Australian Institute of Health Innovation.

The Golden Child:
A Conversation with Wendy James

The Golden Child in one (long) Sentence

The Golden Child is a confronting inquiry into our most profoundly held beliefs about nature and nurture, and the redemptive power of mother love; it’s the story of two women’s heart-breaking realisation that there are no guarantees when it comes to motherhood….

What was your inspiration for the novel?

One of the big questions that inspired the novel was not just the ‘what if’ of your own child being the victim of bullying, but the other side of the question – what if your conscientiously reared, greatly beloved child was the bully? The Golden Child looks at what must be a parents’ worst nightmare – a social media induced suicide attempt – and looks at it from every angle.

I also wanted to explore the way social media seems to encourage people to present their lives, and their selves, as perfect – middle-aged women just as much as teenagers. The way Beth presents her life is a confection that’s completely at odds with what’s really going on. 

Does the book reflect your personal experience?

Some of the ideas and experiences that The Golden Child deals with are, of course, personal.  I’ve experienced both the pleasure and pain of raising teenage daughters (and sons) and this has fed into the work. The novel was influenced by many of my friends’ stories, too. As any parent of a teenager knows, we’re constantly discussing our anxieties about our kids: about the job we’re doing raising them; about whether they’re happy, whether they’re good; whether they have too much or too little; whether they’re going to get good marks, get into uni, make that team. It’s endless.

Lately the stakes have been raised, with social media adding to the complexity and intensity – sometimes with tragic consequences. When it comes to our children, I think we’re all floundering in this brave new world – from controlling screen time, to ensuring our children are safe from predators.

Why focus on the bully?

I’ve often wondered – when hearing my childrens’ side of whatever drama they happen to be involved in – what they’re NOT telling me. Are they really the bad guy? What if I was actually the mother of the bully? What would I do about it? How defensive would I become? How would I rationalise it? How would it affect my relationship with my child? With other mothers? And how would it change my personal mothering ‘narrative’?  We’re always pleased to take some of the credit when our children are good or do well, but what happens if they’re bad? 

Is this book a crime novel?

Crime isn’t just something that happens out there to other people. It happens to, and is perpetrated by, people who on the outside seem good and smart – people like you and me. I’m always most interested in exploring what happens when bad things are done by reasonably good, ordinary, well-meaning people – in trying to work out what it says about the people – and what it means to those who are close to them. This gets particularly interesting when the villains are children!

Your novels have been described as domestic noir – what is this?

The domestic world is what’s most familiar to many of us – it’s where we feel safe, where we can be ourselves. I love exploring what happens when that world is turned on its head – when our haven becomes a place that’s unsafe, that’s built on lies and secrets. When home is actually the most dangerous place we can be – whether physically or psychologically – that’s the noir.

How long did it take you to write The Golden Child?

The initial draft took a little over a year, though there’s been a solid year of redrafting and editing – and of course it’s been many years in the making.


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