by Elaine Blick
In the 1960s, to be unmarried and pregnant was to face shame, scandal and disgrace, also an appalling dilemma. There was no government benefit for unmarried mothers and while some parents would support their daughters others were unwilling or unable to do so, and few employers would take on a woman with a child born out of wedlock. Many girls had no option but to give up their baby for adoption.
First Names Only is a novel in which Elaine Blick tells a story of 18 year-old student, Janice, who finds herself in just such a situation. While Janice has the choice of keeping her baby, with the support of her mother, she has to consider what course would be in the best interests of the child. With considerable pain she elects to give the child up to give it the chance of a better life than she could provide, while she completes her education.
After leaving Sunnyvale home for unmarried mothers in Auckland, Janice finds employment in the children’s ward of a psychiatric hospital and realises that this is the work she wants to devote her life to. Instead of returning to university she trains as a teacher, specialising in children with disabilities. With a rewarding career and a happy marriage, life seems to be going well for Janice but further heartbreak lies ahead. However, those of us who like happy endings (which is most of us, I fancy) and a story that tidies up loose ends, will not be disappointed.
The Author is clearly familiar with the background of her topic – her mother was a longtime staff member at Childhaven, a home in Epsom for unmarried mothers, and this no doubt informs the narrative. However, I did wonder at times if all the girls and staff would have been quite so ‘nice’. A little earthiness would have added some realism to the story.
Throughout the book there is a strong thread of Christian belief in the power of prayer which could possibly jar on some readers, and a little sharpness to cut through the sweetness of the contents would, I feel, improve the book. Nonetheless, the novel provides an interesting insight into the problem of unmarried pregnancy and adoption in the 1960s.
Author: Elaine Blick
Publisher: Elaine Blick