Reviewed by Jennifer Joyce
Anna has always been an anxious parent fretting over every cough and sniffle, so Jake isn’t overly worried when she calls him at work to tell him their six month old son is ill. Jake assumes his wife is worrying over nothing, that Eddie simply has a cold, but the following morning their son is rushed to hospital. Eddie is seriously ill and is taken into intensive care, while Anna and Jake are left fearful and guilt-ridden. Could Anna have acted sooner? And should Jake have taken Anna’s concerns more seriously? Over an agonising ten days, Anna and Jake wait to see what the outcome of their son’s illness will be. Will he survive and, if he does, will there be any lasting damage?
As a parent, I found reading Ten Days quite difficult at times, as I imagined the trauma Anna and Jake were experiencing, how helpless and terrified they must have been as their son lay lifeless, hooked up to machines to keep him alive. Some parts were harder to read than others, such as the description of an autopsy as Jake imagines what would happen if his son died, and I have to admit I skimmed most of it because I couldn’t bear to read it. There were a lot of medical terms and numbers thrown about, particularly as Jake is a doctor, which I felt didn’t help the story at all. While it showed the author knew what she was writing about, as a reader, I was left feeling confused and felt it interrupted the flow of the story. Another interruption for me was the inclusion of Rose Marie, a childminder who usually took care of Eddie and his three year old brother during the day. Ten Days is told from the perspective of Anna, Jake and Rose Marie and while it was quite interesting to see the impact Eddie’s illness had on Rose Marie and her business, I didn’t feel it was totally necessary to focus so much of the book on her.
I think my biggest problem with Ten Days was the fact that I didn’t actually like any of the characters. I felt a bit sorry for Jake at the beginning of the novel as Anna appeared humourless and controlling, but the more I read, the more I disliked him too. I found Jake to be arrogant and unsympathetic towards his wife, getting annoyed that he had to keep translating the medical terms into something she would understand, because she wasn’t medically trained. Her son was seriously ill and she needed to understand, in simple terms, what was going on, but was treated with nothing but contempt by her husband. It seemed like Jake would rather work – which he continued to do throughout the book – and fantasise about his ex-girlfriend rather than support his wife while she remained by their son’s side.
Disliking the characters so much really did hinder my enjoyment of the book as, had I connected to them more, I would have rooted for them, both as parents and as a couple.