Vaughan's last psychological thriller, Anatomy of a Scandal, did very well. This opens in a busy A&E ward on a Saturday night where senior registrar Liz has been called down from the children's ward to examine a 10-month- old baby with a suspicious head injury-the daughter, it turns out, of Jess, a friend Liz has known for 10 years, ever since their first babies were born. The overwhelming anxieties of early motherhood are chillingly evoked, and Liz is left agonising about how well she really knows her friend.
When Jess turns up at A&E with her youngest child, 10-month-old Betsey, by a considerable coincidence Liz is on duty, and unable to ascertain the cause of the little girl’s injuries. Jess, guarded and on edge, refuses to open up to her, and Liz’s decision to involve the authorities causes friction in the group of friends. Told from multiple points of view, this raw and painfully real portrayal of insecurities, guilt, shame and postnatal anxiety is complex, nuanced and moving.
Sarah Vaughan, who hit the bestseller lists with Anatomy of a Scandal, is back with her fourth novel, the shocking, impossible-to-look-away Little Disasters. Opening as a mother becomes increasingly desperate in her attempts to quieten her screaming baby – “doesn’t it make sense to hold her tight, to please, to bargain, perhaps to shout? To try to shake a little sense into her?” – it follows a paediatric doctor, Liz, as she deals with the fallout when her friend Jess brings her baby, Betsey, into A&E. Jess says Betsey “isn’t herself”; Liz discovers Betsey actually has a fractured skull and that Jess’s story doesn’t really make sense.
The story revolves around a young mothers’ friendship group and what happens after one of them, Jess, turns up at A&E with her baby, Betsey, who is vomiting. One of the group, Liz, is a doctor there, and when Betsey is diagnosed with a fractured skull, Liz becomes suspicious.
Distrust and secrets invade the previously easy intimacy of the friends. Buried traumas and blame games threaten to destroy everything they have. Vaughan combines a convincing plot with a perceptive handling of difficult issues around modern female friendships and postnatal depression.