Claire is a natural born teacher, and where her newly qualified, younger colleagues are rigidly teaching by the book- Claire relies far more on her instincts and natural affinity with the youngsters... and this is where all the trouble stems from.
Lorna Bell is a pupil at Claire's school - though not in her own class. The little girl is from a troubled family from a run-down estate. As trouble finds Lorna at school, Claire finds herself drawn to the youngster, fighting her corner- wanting to protect her. But a lot of Claire's compassion stems from her own vulnerabilities- which increase as the story continues.
Bad Little Girl is beautifully written but I did find the first half of the story to be a bit slow paced... yet this added to the brewing tension... that knowledge that everything is all going to go horribly wrong! Having had Safeguarding training myself through my day job, I must admit that I really struggled with the behaviour of both the school and Claire's actions around child protection- and this also made me struggle to have too much sympathy for Claire as the pot developed. That said, as I mentioned above, her actions are often led by her own vulnerabilities. For me, what this novel highlights is the need for a great deal of care, attention and support for teachers- as well as pupils. This is a cautionary tale of how it can go so very wrong.
The novel is a study in claustrophobia and manipulation. It is a slow-burning story that leads the reader towards a truth that they simply don't want to see. I have to admit that I saw the main twist coming from very early on - but I so didn't want it to be true that I kept hoping against hope that one of the other possibilities that kept cropping up in my head would end up coming to pass instead. But... nope. This book has left me feeling queasy and uneasy.
Bad Little Girl has one of the most disturbing characters I think I've ever come across. A true psychopath in every sense of the word. Whether they have been born like this or whether it is a result of their life... that old nature vs nurture thing... I'll leave it up to you to ponder. All I can say is that they'll stay with me for a very long time... though I'll be doing my very best to forget them.
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‘I’m not safe – you have to help me…’
Little Lorna Bell is from a notorious family on a rundown estate. Everyone thinks she’s a nasty piece of work. The schoolchildren call her a thief. But Lorna’s hair is matted, her shoes pinch her feet and school teacher Claire Penny can’t help herself; some kids just need a bit more support, a bit more love, than the rest.
As the bond between teacher and pupil grows stronger, Claire sees Lorna’s bruises, and digs to uncover the disturbing tale behind them. Heartbroken, Claire knows she has to act. She must make Lorna safe.
Just when Claire thinks she has protected Lorna, a chance encounter brings enigmatic stranger Marianne Cairns into their lives. Marianne seems generous and kind but there is something about her story that doesn’t quite add up. Why does she feel so at home, and why is Lorna suddenly so unsettled?
Claire has risked everything to save Lorna. But what can save Claire from the shocking truth?
About Frances Vick: