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30 May 2013

Review: 'Dear Thing' by Julie Cohen (2013)

Claire and Ben are the perfect couple. But behind the glossy façade, they've been desperately trying - and failing - to have a baby for years. Now, the stress and feelings of loss are taking their toll on their marriage. Claire's ready to give up hope and get on with her life, but Ben is not. And then Ben's best friend, Romily, offers to conceive via artificial insemination and carry the baby for them.

Romily acts in good faith, believing it will be easy to be a surrogate. She's already a single mother, and has no desire for any more children. Except that being pregnant with Ben's child stirs up all sorts of emotions in her, including one she's kept hidden for a very long time: Ben's the only man she's ever loved.

Two mothers-and one baby who belongs to both of them, and which only one of them can keep.

Julie Cohen’s latest novel, ‘Dear Thing’, which was released on the 11th of April 2013, quickly turned into a book all the bloggers seemed to be talking about. My Twitter timeline included lots of positive messages about ‘Dear Thing’ almost every single day, which only sparked my curiosity. So, when Transworld contacted me about a possible review copy (thanks so much September!), I immediately got excited. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on ‘Dear Thing’ and see whether it was really as good as everyone was telling me. 

To the outside world, Claire and Ben are the perfect couple: happily married, well-paid jobs, a beautiful big family home... The only thing that seems to be missing from this picture are the children, and that is exactly where Ben and Claire are struggling. After several years of trying and giving IVF numerous tries, Claire would do anything to have her own baby to take care of. However, when she suffers another miscarriage, she is once again heartbroken and tells Ben she doesn’t have the strength to keep doing this. So, when Ben and his best friend Romily are in the pub one night, and Romily (after a few glasses too many) offers to be Ben and Claire’s surrogate, Ben is over the moon. The day after, Romily immediately regrets what she said, but when she sees how happy Ben is, she can’t possibly back out... Especially not because she has been in love with Ben for a long time and she would do anything to see him happy. Romily, Ben and Claire soon find themselves in a tricky three-way relationship with many different emotions and a time-span of about nine months to fix it all...

The three main characters (Ben, Claire and Romily) in this novel really made the story come alive for me. Julie Cohen’s well-written, in-depth descriptions of these three individuals, and everything they think and feel, in combination with the sensitive topic of surrogacy, turned this into quite an intense read. I often start rooting for a particular character in a novel, but this time I felt myself torn between Romily and Claire. On the one hand, there’s lovely Romily, who’s disorganised, obsessed with insects, harbours a secret love for her best friend Ben, and does everything in her power to make sure her daughter Posie is brought up the right way. On the other hand, there’s Claire: as organised as can be, the perfect mother figure who is heartbroken because the one thing she has always wanted seems to be out of reach. Throughout the novel, I sympathised with both characters, but I think in the end Claire has to be my favourite. It was heartbreaking to read about how she considers herself a failure, and I really admire her strength to go on, and how she deals with everything that is thrown at her. I especially loved the relationship Claire has with one of her students, Max, which shows what a great teacher she is and what an amazing mum she could be, if only given the chance.

I thought the letters Romily writes to ‘Thing’, the baby, really added something special. Especially since they included all the feelings Romily is afraid to acknowledge out loud in the real world. I felt myself flying through the pages of this novel: it’s easy to read, which isn’t always the case when it comes to sensitive topics like this. Overall, ‘Dear Thing’ is a realistic, moving read not just about the difficult topic of surrogacy, but also about falling down and getting up again, not giving up on life and what you want from it, no matter what might be thrown at you.



  1. This sounds like such an interesting plot!! I definitely would love to read how it ends, thanks for the great review Jody. You always write so eloquently!

    1. Yes, it definitely was an interesting read! :) Thanks so much for the compliment, Marie, it means a lot! <3

  2. Oh this sounds amazing. I actually hadn't heard of it but going to stick it on my wishlist!