Aussie Book Review: Fractured by Dawn Barker

 fracturedFractured by Dawn Barker


Review copy provided by publisher

Hachette, March 2013

 Synopsis- A compelling, emotional knockout debut from a brilliant new Australian author.

An unforgettable novel that brings to life a new mother’s worst fears.

Tony is worried. His wife, Anna, isn’t coping with their newborn. Anna had wanted a child so badly and, when Jack was born, they were both so happy. They’d come home from the hospital a family. Was it really only six weeks ago?

But Anna hasn’t been herself since. One moment she’s crying, the next she seems almost too positive. It must be normal with a baby, Tony thought; she’s just adjusting. He had been busy at work. It would sort itself out. But now Anna and Jack are missing. And Tony realises that something is really wrong…

What happens to this family will break your heart and leave you breathless.

 Review- Fractured tells the story of a healthy, highly functioning woman who has a much anticipated pregnancy and a very wanted little baby boy, Jack. But in the weeks following her son’s birth she experiences sleep difficulties and mixed feelings about her baby and she develops a postnatal psychosis with devastating effects on the young family. Told mainly from the viewpoint of her husband Tony, the reader is also privy to the impact on the paternal and maternal grandparents as well as the unfolding story of Anna’s deterioration in her mental state, the day the tragedy occurred and the weeks and months in the aftermath.

Working in perinatal mental health myself I’m always a little critical of how mental illness is represented in fiction especially during motherhood but I couldn’t really fault Fractured. It doesn’t just explore the illness but the implications on the family and the fracture in the relationships both before and after the tragedy.

The author’s background in psychiatry lends an insight into institutionalisation and the integrate details of the impact of a major mental illness on not just the individual but also the extended family. But what I really appreciated was the objectivity the author brings in representing the health system and wider professional network that encounter Anna and her family. From the GP, to the maternity unit to psychiatric ward and the police, as a health professional even I was saying “that’d be right” about some of the poor handling of the case.

Though postnatal depression is quite common for women, postpartum psychosis is actually quite rare and can actually occur without any history of mental health issues. That’s a little scary.

The opening chapter generates anxiety in the reader with the idea that something bad has happened. Tony, father of six week old Jack trusts his intuition and leaves work early when his mother discovers that Jack and his wife Anna are not at home as he expected. Where could they possibly have gone when she was in bed less than an hour ago?

When Anna is found she is in a psychotic state and unable to articulate or remember what happened to Jack. When their baby is located, the tragic news devastates the family. Jack is dead. But how did he die? Tony is frantic to find an explanation for Anna’s behaviour, from believing she was attacked to some form of physical condition until reluctantly considering that perhaps his beloved wife killed their baby.

My feelings for each of the characters in the story changed throughout. initially I felt Ursula, Tony’s mother was very supportive and helpful but later I found her to be quite critical and intrusive- much how Tony experienced her in the latter half of the book. Tony was whom I empathised with mainly as he learns that his baby has died and his wife is mentally ill. The author realistically showed the change in Tony’s perception of the situation and the mixture of feelings he had throughout the story. Anna’s viewpoint became more palpable later in the story as the before and after began to merge and she became more lucid. I could empathise with her, especially near the end knowing that her life would never be the same again. How in just six weeks a young couple bring a bundle of joy into the world can have their lives turned upside down and would be on their conscience forever.

Later in the story as the impact on Anna and Tony’s relationship became palpable, I became a little teary and even though my vision was a little blurry I just couldn’t put this book down.

Fractured is a touching, moving story about the devastating impact of postnatal psychosis on a family in its extreme manifestations. Through clever storytelling of the before and after approach it gives you a sense of helpless hindsight of all the points in which something could have been done to prevent baby Jack’s death.

I highly recommend Fractured by Australian debut author, Dawn Barker. Check back in tomorrow for my Q&A with Dawn to find out her inspiration for this story.

If you or someone you know is depressed please call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 (24 hours) or Sane Australia on 1800 187 263 (business hours only) for advice and support.

Overall Rating


“Highly Recommended!”

Fractured can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

This book was read as part of the AWW2013 challenge:



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