Review: The Push by Ashley Audrain (2021)

The Push by Ashley Audrain

Blurb

What if your experience of motherhood was nothing like what you hoped for – but everything you always feared?

‘The women in this family, we’re different . . .’

The arrival of baby Violet was meant to be the happiest day of my life. A fresh start.

But as soon as I held her in my arms, I knew something wasn’t right.

I have always known that the women in my family weren’t meant to be mothers.

My husband Fox says I’m imagining it, but she’s different with me. Something feels very wrong.

Is it her? Or is it me?

Is she the monster? Or am I?

The Push is an addictive, gripping and compulsive read asking what happens when women are not believed – and challenging everything we think we know about motherhood.

Review

I’d heard great things about this book, from book bloggers who have never let me down yet with their recommendations, so I treated myself to the gorgeous Waterstones special edition – yep, the one with the PURPLE sprayed edges. I actually wasn’t intending to read it this month, but it called out to me, and I couldn’t resist.

This book is astounding. It is so dark and powerful and so cleverly written. The structure builds towards the central incident with agonising tension, and then spirals out from it in a tangled web of consequences and possible causes, reaching back into the past and surging forwards into the present. I can’t talk about the plot too much for fear of spoiling anything, but Audrain’s narrative skill is breathtaking – the way the novel carefully controls the tension, turning up the dial in increments, makes it impossible to put this book down. I loved the progression of uncertainty, menace, doubt and terror – cycling between these point is an emotionally exhausting, utterly captivating journey for the reader.

The characters in The Push are fascinating. Blythe, the narrator, feels the weight of her history crushing her as she struggles to forge a new path, and the flashbacks of her mother and grandmother, Cecily and Etta, create a terrifying sense of the cyclical pattern she is so afraid of repeating. There is real darkness in this book, and at times it is a difficult read. These are characters who have suffered, are suffering, who are driven to desperate acts by sheer desperation. And Violet, who stains the pages (literally in my beautiful purple copy!) and haunts her mother’s nightmares – she is all the more disturbing for being unknowable. We never see her point of view, fully allied as we are with Blythe’s confessional-style narrative, written for her partner, Fox. The ‘you’ that Fox mostly exists as in the novel is another stylish feature of this intelligent novel – it adds another level of intimacy, as if we are spying on their relationship. I have to admit, I got very angry with him at several points, and was frustrated with Blythe’s acceptance of his treatment of her, his lack of understanding.

The Push could not be more aptly named. Rarely have I read a book with such surging momentum, such narrative force and drive. I read late into the night, and could hardly bear to pause to attend to my own motherly duties. I have been intentionally vague with regards to the plot, because it is just so shocking and brilliantly done, and it is best to go in without too much prior knowledge. If you like compelling, disturbing reads that will keep you up, The Push is absolutely the book for you. I will be thinking about it for a long time.

The Push by Ashley Audrain is published by Penguin Michael Joseph and is available to purchase here.

6 thoughts on “Review: The Push by Ashley Audrain (2021)

  1. So glad you loved it! It is one of my favourites from the year so far. It was so dark and I was totally hooked!

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