A Judge Decided – Review 3

Thank you Priscilla Beeton for this review

BOOK REVIEW

Helen Fenwick (2021) A Judge Decided. 

Struisbaai: Self-published.

289 pages

A Judge Decided is Helen Fenwick’s first published novel. Although written as a work of fiction, it is based on a true story of a custody battle that culminated in the first court case in South Africa challenging the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This states that one parent may not remove a child to another country without the other parent’s consent and allows for the expeditious return of that child to their country of habitual residence.

Leigh and Darren, a young married couple, move to Britain where their two sons are born. Darren is unreasonably demanding of his exhausted and depressed young wife who is striving to cope with two babies both under two years old while continuing to do office work for him. He is constantly undermining Leigh’s confidence with psychological abuse, threats of divorce and of taking away one of her babies and sending her back to South Africa. She, understandably, flees home to South Africa to her father and stepmother, taking both babies with her. Citing the Hague Convention, Darren fights through the British courts for the babies’ return to Britain, with or without their mother. This is the story of Leigh’s valiant fight through the South African courts to keep her babies with her in South Africa.

Helen Fenwick has written the novel largely in the present tense, which swiftly builds suspense. She has succeeded in making the reader feel the events are happening right now and the reader is also swiftly caught up in the rapidly changing emotion of the characters. She has skillfully avoided the trap of including the banal and unimportant detail into which some authors writing in the present tense fall.  She has done this in part by using another interesting tool. In italicized passages to set them apart from the narrative, she uses the ghostly but benevolent interpositions of Leigh’s mother, who died when Leigh was twelve years old, to provide background and to warn the reader that something bad or alarming is about to happen. The entire family, including Leigh’s much-loved and supportive stepmother, often feel or sense her comforting spiritual presence. The story, sensitively written, is told through the eyes of Leigh and her family members, through their conversations and e-mail correspondence, to which the reader can easily relate.  The reader sees Leigh’s growing confidence, with the support and empathy of her family, to become a young mother taking charge of her own and her sons’ future.  

Divorce and child custody battles can be ugly.  Although fictionalized, there is much in this book that would be useful reading and advice for young parents in troubled relationships and also for their families – advice about the importance of striving to solving the breakdown of relationships, of seeking professional help and also how important it is to fight for one’s rights. Above all, this book demonstrates the importance of a loving and supportive family. A Judge Decided is a powerful family story, filled with suspense as the reader follows the events unfolding around the custody battles which finally end in the decision of a judge in the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein. It is a roller-coaster of a ride, high elation one moment and alarm, fear and despondency the next as the reader wonders who is finally going to win this war and at what cost.

A compelling read which, once started, is almost unput-downable! Well done, Helen Fenwick, on your debut novel! I truly hope there will be more.

Priscilla Beeton

22 January 2021

A Judge Decided Review 2

Thanks to Yolandi Reiche for her review of my book, “A Judge Decided”

Anyone looking for a nailbiting courtroom saga should definitely put this novel at the top of their reading list. It was first published in 2020 and is 290 pages long.

The novel begins with the character of Carey, who narrates throughout the book and lends a somewhat nostalgic, yet interesting twist to the tale. All the characters are realistically portrayed and completely relatable. It speaks of the realities of a blended family, raising children together, and the obsticles one has to overcome. My favourite character has to be Penny, who comes across as a very wise lady who through her kindness and empathy keeps her family stable during all the trials and tribulations.

The novel centers around a young mother, Leigh’s, fight to protect and keep her two young sons from her narcisistic husband, by fleeing their country of birth. A court battle for custody of the boys then ensues. The content of which will keep the reader on the edge of their seat.

I really enjoyed the intrigue and suspense of this novel and could not put it down until the end.

Yolandi Reiche

A Judge Decided – Review 1

As most of my regular readers know I have written a book, my first, at the ripe old age of sixty-eight.

The story, “A Judge Decided” is a fictionalised version of true events. At the moment it is only available in Paperback and by ordering directly from me. fenwickh@jebomail.co.za

If you live in Cape Town collection from Sun Valley and Plumstead can be arranged. Residents or visitors to Struisbaai can obtain copies from Agulhas PrintIt, Struisbaai Stationers, Shipwreck Cafe, The Information Centre or from Potpourri in Agulhas.

Delivery to other parts of the country can be arranged usually via Paxi. Just drop me an email.

I hope to produce an ebook at a later stage.

In the meantime I will post reviews on my blog to help promote the paperback.

A JUDGE DECIDED – A LITERARY EVALUATION by Pierre Massyn

Child custody – a topic often avoided, but when discussed, one that inevitably leads to heated debate; a controversial subject since King Solomon and his verdict on the rightful custodian of the disputed child.

Families are known, not only to divide, but to split because of the issue of child custody. Now Helen Fenwick examines in depth this contentious topic in her gripping new book, A judge Decided.

Written with circumspection and great sensitivity, Fenwick deftly interweaves other underlying issues of parent separation and third party involvement.

A Judge Decided is not only a remarkable legal case study based on true events, it exposes the human face of the dramatis personae in a deteriorating relationship.  In her groundbreaking work, Fenwick casts the reader into the roles of parents and children alike –  the latter caught between two counter poles. Central to the sub-plot of a husband substituting his loyal wife for another woman, is the presence of a mother pining for her children.

Written in the present tense, the book is refreshingly candid and characterised by  rare-found honesty, expressed in engaging dialogue between the characters.

Always hovering in the background, in another dimension,  is Leigh’s mother – her spirit guide who acts as mentor and counselor. Carey appears in the form of a bird – a heron, a sparrow, an owl –  to comfort both Leigh and Penny.

The author successfully portrays and explains bewilderingly legal issues, such as custody of the central character’s children in a disarmingly honest way. Her style is loose and pragmatic, and she paints her narrative in a flowing and easy way.  Enshrined in  the issue of custody, is The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Act 72 of 1996. Helen Fenwick not only untangles this complex legal web, but presents it to the critical reader in a palatable and credible way.  

At the risk of spoiling the reader’s potential enjoyment of this excellent work, I shall restrict myself to saying that the tension builds up palpably up to the point where the judge finally has to give his verdict. Will the forces of good prevail?

The print and layout is pleasing and attractive and Eloise Krige’s Sonop Uitgewers deserves a commendation for a job well done.

In conclusion:  A book dealing with the topic of A Judge Decided is long overdue and will be thoroughly appreciated by parents and individuals of all ages world-wide. Rating: *****

Share Your World Monday 21 December 2020

Here are my answers to this weeks questions from Sparks

What is your favorite type of cookie (they’re called biscuits in Europe I believe)?

They are called biscuits in South Africa too. Any biscuit with chocolate is my favourite. I don’t often indulge in sweet carbohydrates but Romany Creams are irresistable.

If you could choose one age and remain that forever, what would it be and why?

That’s a difficult one. I can’t imagine being at one static age forever. There is a season for everything and each stage has it’s advantages and disadvantages.

I enjoyed the energy I had in my thirties and it was a very busy decade. If I stayed there it would be never ending! Now in my sixties I am still energetic, have time to indulge in a number of activities I did not have time for before and I am no longer responsible for the very young and the very old in my life. So perhaps I would like to remain in my sixties forever. May I never become sick and frail!

Super Gran!

Do you have a traditional drink during the holiday season?

Not really – we don’t do eggnog. There will be some good South African wines both red and white on offer and of course, Prosecco

Are you able to still believe in holiday magic as you did when you were a child?

Well, all our grandchildren are over 16 now but they still love Christmas. It’s not quite the same feeling as I had as a child the best part being when my mother read us “A Visit from St Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore.

When I was teaching Grade One – 6 to 7 year-olds – I loved doing the Christmas stories, How the Grinch stole Christmas, was a particular favourite and one year, I read it to my grandchildren too.

Reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas to Grandpa and the grandkids – some years back now.

GRATITUDE SECTION (Always optional)

The prompt is wide open today, for anything you care to share!

I am grateful to be sharing Christmas with our kids and grandkids this year. I have friends who will be alone due to Covid restrictions instituted by their country of residence and others because of self-isolation. One of our own is also unwell and won’t be joining us. Hopefully it is not COVID.

I am also super-excited that my book. A Judge Decided is now ready for distribution. How very grateful I am to all those who worked tirelessly to help have it ready before The New Year.

More about this here