Some people read an article in the newspaper about someone rich, buying themselves a baby, and will vent their anger at this fact, in a blog. Others will use it for a topic over the lunch table, at work. But Donna Leon wrote a book about it, and to tell the truth, it failed to be interesting after half the book, since how many celebrities don’t do this over and over again, and noone raises an eyebrow anymore. How do people think that Marie Osmond, Madonna, Angelina Jolie etc., etc.. got hold of their children? They bought them. It’s a Hollywood disease and as long as there are women who can’t afford to keep their babies and there are women out there willing to pay, the trade will go on. Does it make an interesting mystery novel though? Hardly!
This book is Donna Leon’s 16th book, in the series set in Venice, featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti, his wife Paola and children Chiara and Raffaele, who never seem to reach adulthood, to keep the family cozy. Add to the family, Brunetti’s right hand, lieutenant Lorenzo Vianello, their Sicilian, work-shy boss Vice-Questore Patta, who is an outright fool, and his right hand, also from the south, lieutenant Scarpa, and you basically have the characters that keep on coming back, book after book. In one way, I guess it is re-assuring to be so familiar with the characters, but the characters tend to become a point of irritation eventually, when the story lines have nothing to deliver except boredom.
Her 15th book was so lousy that I was assured that her 16th would be close to a master piece. After all, how can one write two bad books in a row? It all started out pretty exciting. A woman sits in Brunetti’s office, telling him about strange goings on, in the flat opposite hers. A pregnant foreigner who never cooked any food, who did not go out and certainly did not go to the hospital to give birth to her baby. Even more strange: She disappeared the next day. Not only was the woman strange, but also the three men who sat in her kitchen at times, not eating but just talking. All through the book I sat wondering where this story was going to re-appear. But as many times before, I wonder if Donna Leon proof reads her books? She must have forgot to mention the outcome of this particular story.
Next chapter, a loving father says goodnight to his 18 month old son Alfredo. I guess Mrs. Leon has no children herself, because Alfredo has never uttered any words, until now, when he says “papa””. Sorry, Mrs. Leon but as a pediatrician, Dottor Pedrolli would have taken his son to a psychologist and asked him if Alfredo is autistic, since he had not talked before then. My autistic son said mamma and pappa much earlier than 18 months! Actually right on time! Alfredo does at 18 months not have any teeth either, according to Mrs. Leon. Right! All my children received their first teeth when they were 4 months old, except “Boo” who had his first, when he was 11 months old. When a child is 18 months old it is supposed to have been on solids for almost a year, so she needs to go back on her research and learn more about children, before she writes about them again.
After forced celibacy for 18 months, Dottor Pedrolli gets lucky that night, but he does not get to sleep afterwards, for very long, before three armed men stand in his bedroom with machine guns. They take the baby, after having hit the naked Pedrolli over the head with the butt of a machine gun. When they leave, Bianca the wife, notices that the men are indeed Carabinieri. Military police vs. the regular civilian police, which Brunetti belongs to.
Brunetti is called in at this moment, in the middle of the night, because a man has been attacked. But what he meets at the hospital is confusion. A young captain of the Carabinieri, is overseeing one of his men getting attended to. Dottor Pedrolli jumped that man in the flat, in a naked state, and hit his nose. Brunetti spends frustrating hours trying to figure out what on earth has been going on. The Captain, Marvilli, states that he and four Carabinieri assigned to him from Verona, had orders to fetch Pedrolli’s son, since he was adopted illegally and that similar arrests or raids were made all over Italy during that same night. Same charges.
According to Marvilli, it all started with a Polish woman giving birth in Vicenza and a couple from Milano walking out of the hospital, with her baby. The husband claiming on the birth certificate, of being the father. But he had been in England at the time of conception and had never been to Poland. The mother having arrived to Italy, being three months pregnant, it was obvious she was lying. She had also told women in the maternity ward that she wanted to keep her Polish boyfriend happy and bring back lots of money for him.
After this exciting start, I certainly thought it would keep this speed but then it just dropped off and got worse and worse. Another story started! Vianello and Vice-Questore Patta’s secretary are running their own investigation in to a strange phenomena in Venice. Pharmacists who has got in to the practice of setting up appointments for their clients, with doctors. Nothing wrong in this of course. Except that especially one old pharmacist, is setting up appointments for phantom clients of his, some even dead ones. And the doctors, pretending to give these patients care, claiming money from the state, for having treated them. Giving part of the income, to the pharmacist. In one book, Leon gets to protest against two practices! But is it really interesting?
Then we get thrown back in to the baby business, when said secretary of Patta, by the name of Elettra, tells Brunetti that she has booked time for them at an infertility clinic in Verona. As Mr. Brunini and young mistress. She gets fake records of their infertility and they head to the clinic, only to be told that they can’t have a baby naturally and they can’t adopt, because she is just his mistress and he is not divorced yet. All part of the made up story. They expect to be offered to buy a baby, but no such offer is made. So flat fall.
Brunetti basically drops the case, since Dottor Pedrolli bought Alfredo off an Albanian woman. According to the town gossip which Paola gives Brunetti, Dottor Pedrolli, went to a conference and had a one night stand with the woman, found out she got pregnant and did the honourable thing and brought the son home. People were not sure that Bianca, his wife, really forgave him though since she treated the baby with coldness. Brunetti of course finds out that the Albanian woman’s husband was the father and that he bought himself a new car and did a deposit on a flat, only two days after the baby was born. Case closed.
By this time, you have reached page 184 and you start looking at how many dreadful pages are left of the book. About 150 more! 😦 I resorted to reading the end, to see if I could just skip those pages and be done with it. Unfortunately I could not make any sense out of the end, so I was forced to continue. Making a mental note that it was VERY stupid of me, to have bought the next three in the series and that I must not under any circumstances purchase her four latest. No way, enough is enough.)
The story goes back to Vianello’s case, when a pharmacist by the name of Franchi, gets broken in to. First they think that he does the fake appointment things as well, but it turns out that this man is Venice’s conscience. He reads his clients medical records, by hacking in to the hospital records, and later on in the book, we get to know what he does with that knowledge. One man, who was engaged to be married, was told by his mother, that his fiancée had a mental illness that could be passed down to his children. The mother having been told this by the pharmacist. Naturally the man reacted by dumping his fiancée and getting engaged to a healthy girl instead, whom he got pregnant before the wedding. And this is how Franchi works, he informs someone who “should know” about the patient’s disease. Him not seeing any problem with this at all, but that he is doing the right thing since the patient will not.
Brunetti, wanting closure to his case somehow, has by now heard more gossip, that Pedrolli, looked at the son as his, but his wife did not. And that while he before the baby, adored his wife, his feelings had totally transferred to the baby, after his arrival in their home. Brunetti wants to know who phoned the Carabinieri and told them about the baby purchase, so he decides to go to Bianca’s father. Her father is a feared politician by the name of Marcolini, who is the founder of Lega Doge, a fascist party. Northern Italy’s fascist party Lega Nord becomes Lega Doge in Leon’s book. No wonder they do not get translated in to Italian, or she would get in to real trouble with this book. But they are no doubt, who she is talking about. And why she drags them in to the book as well, on top of adoption and health care fraud…? It is a little bit far fetched and gives the feeling that she had painted herself in to a corner and this was the only way to get out, to finish the book for her publisher. So, Brunetti heads for the Lega Doge headquarters in Venice, where he sees posters with the above greeting by Lega Nord, among other things. Leon informs her readers that they are a separatist party who resents social change in Italy and as all fascists dislike foreigners, the Left and women.
Marcolini is happy to speak to Brunetti about the awful child that did not look Italian at all and how Pedrolli paid €10 000 for him. A colleague of Pedrolli’s, whom he had gone to school with, had phoned him and told him he had a patient pregnant with an unwanted baby. Pedrolli went down to Cosenza and made the deal there. Problem being that his wife Bianca did not want the baby at all and saw him as a chore and Marcolini did not want this child for a grand-son nor for him to inherit all the money that Marcolini had earned on his plumbing business. Bianca asked her father to make a phone call to the Carabinieri and tell them that her husband bought the baby.
When Brunetti comes back to the Questura, he finds out that the fertility clinic has contacted Elettra about a possible baby adoption, but Brunetti decides to drop it unless the Carabinieri are interested and they are not? Leon doesn’t say. So what was the entire book about then? Pointless! She could have made a big thing of the entire adoption thing, but she just wasted my time and paper instead. Pedrolli finally sits in the arrest one day, after he attacks the pharmacist Franchi with acid, having suspected him of being the one who made the phone call to the Carabinieri. He stops talking to Brunetti when he finds out that his wife asked her dad to make the call. That is how the stupid book ends. There was no case in the first place! Only Leon trying to make a point that adopted children should get to stay with their new parents, no matter how they came to them in the first place, and not be put in orphanages.
Usually the topic of these sort of adoptions have me livid. Because adoption, really has become a hobby of the rich and famous, hasn’t it. The people who truly love children and would make wonderful parents, but who lack the funds, are always the ones who end up childless. Because to adopt, you have to have a lot of money, while it does not cost a thing, to make them yourself.
If someone put me on the spot and asked me “is there anyone you hate?”, I would say “people like Angelina Jolie, Marie Osmond, Madonna, Carola Häggkvist…”, all the ones who use their money and by-pass all the queues that ordinary people have to stand in, to adopt a child. My anger over what they do, first of all pertains to the fact, that I have met several couples who have never got to the top of the waiting list. Who have to forego the experience of being a parent all together. In Marie Osmond’s biography, she states how she could decide she wanted to adopt one day and the next she had a new baby! My second issue with it all, is the fact that one law pertain to the famous and another to the rest of us mortals. Why did Angelina Jolie get to adopt three kids when she could have her own biologically? And where was the social service check up? Is she supposed to be a wonderful mother when she has several nannies for each child and no time to raise her children, herself? Thirdly, I oppose to the unfairness of all adoptions. That money talks, that age, civil status etc. does not pertain to celebrities.
I lost my baby Serena Rose, when she was 17 weeks. Her heart stopped beating and today I know it was because my metabolism doesn’t work and it meant that she had nothing to sustain her life. Her host was a bad one! But since then I have spent a fortune on ovulation tests and I have spent hours and hours crying for the daughter that God will not give me. I started looking in to adoption, already after the tsunami hit Thailand. What did the authorities in Thailand say, after it was clear that lots of babies and children had lost their parents and extended families? Only infertile couples without children were allowed to adopt! They felt that it was better for the children to sit in orphanages than ending up in a family with lots of siblings. But it is all about money isn’t it?! What says that an orphaned child would be so much better off in a family without kids, but with two incomes? Doesn’t love count for anything?
When I lost Serena, and even more so, in April last year, when I had another miscarriage, but that time in week 10, I really started looking at what options we have. To adopt from India, the husband’s age together with the wife’s, is not allowed to exceed 90 years. If they do, no adoption. This from a country where the women have an abortion after their 12 week ultra sound, if it is a girl growing in their wombs. This from a country where the parents feed their newborn baby girls unpeeled rice, so they will die of suffocation. I would have been delighted to have brought home a little baby girl from India and we would have given her all the love we could.
Then I looked at China, a country which does not want their girls either. The family has to have $10 000 per year/family member, for your to get to adopt. The intended adopted child also being counted in to this equation. T. would have to earn $90,000 a year, for us to adopt from China. And of course it cost $25, 000 dollars to adopt both from there and from South Africa. These are countries who want to get rid of babies, get rid of surplus population, but “only the rich apply, please”.
My last effort of research, went to India again. They have Indian women act as surrogate mothers. You have to give them $20,000 dollars for it whether they miscarry or not. But this is not all. You have to go to a fertility clinic in your own country and fix ova and sperms of course, which of course is not counted in to that cost. Then you have to come to India with it all and you also have to be there for the birth. None of these travelling costs, are calculated in to the above dollars either. In other words, I do not have the money for any of it. I did contact them but when I found out the price, I had to tell them that no fertility clinic would even go close to me when they found out I have Hypothyroid and Hashimoto’s. Nor would they take me on as a patient because of my age! It is a bitter pill to swallow!
I guess, with my own problems, I should have been drawn to this book like a magnet, but it did nothing to me. It stirred no emotions, it did not engage me what so ever. It was written without passion and then it can not raise any either.