Book Club: The Making Of Christina

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Author: Meredith Jaffé
ISBN: 9781743548462
RRP: $29.99

I don’t know where to start. My heart is breaking and my mind is left reeling. This is a story that is not easy to read, it is not easy to contemplate and I am still having trouble trying to reconcile.

Time hasn’t really helped…

The Making of Christina is the second novel by Meredith Jaffé and the second we have read for book club. Jaffé’s debut was an enjoyable read that I thought was a little over the top and blown out of proportion at times, that’s definitely not how I felt about her second novel.

Christina Clemente is an interior designer and single mum; she is offered a prestigious renovation for millionaire businessman Jackson Plummer. A commission that could make her career and she throws herself into it. There’s not a lot going on in her social life so when her daughter is asleep or with her dad Christina is left with little to do, she spends the time working tirelessly on the renovations.

An intense affair with Jackson seems to cure all; he’s a balm to her loneliness and an admirable father figure to Bianca, who is only two when the pair meet. The affair is not some wild fling; they embark on a serious, yet clandestine, relationship and build a part-time life together.

The story is told on converging timelines with past and present unfolding simultaneously as we move toward a place where all of the pieces come together. Christina Clemente is the leading lady in this family drama; it’s her head we spend the present in, and her eyes through which we view the past.

The back of the book tells us that they move to a rundown rural farm where Bianca transforms from a bubbly child to a sullen teen and Bianca has a secret. I don’t want to say too much more than that because, well because SPOILERS.

In the first few chapters we find out a little about the impact that Bianca’s secret has had but not a lot about the actual secret. The details of Bianca’s secret are sketchy so you spend the bulk of the book trying to see the big picture; you have a fair idea what was happening but it’s all theoretical.

The Making of Christina was a difficult book to read, made more difficult by the fact that it could so easily happen to anyone. I wish this was a story that seemed over-dramatised and blown out of proportion but it wasn’t. It rang true, it was authentic and it broke my heart.

Our beginning is near the end of the story so we have a vague idea of what might have happened; we have that value of hindsight. The story progresses from Christina’s first meeting with Jackson Plummer right through to when the two timelines converge. We can see the warning signs, because we have extra knowledge and we are looking for the signs. Signs that any of us may have missed without the warning.

Jaffé explores the dynamics of power in families effectively and realistically. She has clearly spent time researching her material and though it breaks my heart to think these situations are so prevalent, I know that they really are. Jaffé has crafted a story that will leave you questioning how well you know those around you and how easily it could happen in your family. I am mother to a teenage daughter and all of the stories I am reading lately that feature teens leave me scared witless about all the things that could befall her, all I can do is hope that I have equipped her with the tools she needs to navigate tricky situations.

What I did love about The Making of Christina is that though Bianca is at the centre of this storyline Jaffé lets us know that it isn’t something that just happens to girls, and I think that is something that we do need to be more aware of in society.

The farm that Plummer purchases for them all to move to is rundown and in need of a lot of loving but it still has majestic bones, it has the potential to be amazing again. A perfect project for Christina to throw herself into and done right it could cement her name in interior design circles, it could be her crowning glory. It could also gain heritage listing, if only they can uncover the vital pieces of its history. This is a mystery and an undertaking that consumes much of Christina’s time, and focus.

Bartholomews Run was an interesting choice of farms. The property is huge, the house was once magnificent and the history has largely been lost. It originally belonged to an Australian artist and the slow uncovering of the story is interesting, well developed and disturbingly parallel. I think this parallel adds an extra layer to the story that may have been lacking if the place had belonged to a conservative, wealthy politician or businessman.

Jaffé deftly weaves the strands of this story to explore the power dynamics within a family and especially the balance of power that wealth can bring to a situation; the subtle moves played to create the perfect situation and the crippling effect of guilt. The guilt that mothers take on themselves for things that aren’t necessarily their fault.

I loved this book, I don’t believe anything I have said here comes close to doing it justice. I was emotionally invested throughout and for all of the not wanting to know anymore because it was hurting my heart I just couldn’t put it down, I had to keep turning the pages to get to the place where I hoped there would be closure.

This isn’t a book that could not have had a convincing happily ever after with everything tied up neatly in a bow, it would not have felt genuine but what it does have is a satisfying ending.

The Making of Christina is a story that will definitely get you thinking, and the odds are that it will resonate with many readers on some level. This is a book that was beautifully crafted with flawed characters that could be any one of us.

The Making of Christina is book #32 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017.

Meredith Jaffé can be followed on Facebook, MeredithJaffe.com and Twitter.

The Making of Christina is available now from Pan Macmillan, Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold..

Thanks to Pan Macmillan 15 of our Beauty and Lace Club members will be reading The Making of Christina so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments. I look forward to hearing what they think.

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16 thoughts on “Book Club: The Making Of Christina

    1. Thanks for saying so Cathy, it was definitely a powerful read that I enjoyed. I agonised over that review for days. Hard to discuss the issues without including spoilers.
      I would definitely say add to your TBR

  1. Wow , this book is amazing. It evoked very strong emotions and although the story was challenging to read I can understand the great truths within. It is well known that victims of child sexual abuse are often held “hostage” by the perpetrator and manipulated into keeping secret what is being done to them. I can imagine how Christina would have felt, being the mother who for so many years had no knowledge of the abuse, We are given insight into the legal system and the horrific treatment of young victims, and we are finally shown a powerful emergence from the effects of the abuse. Strength and transformation are found from speaking the truth and being believed , By breaking through the web of deception, manipulation and fear Bianca faced and conquered the “dragon”. I think this was beautifully explored and although I have not personally experienced such abuse I hope that others who have will find this work sensitive and empowering. I appreciate the opportunity to read this book and will recommend it to my friends.

  2. Wow, such a compelling and heartbreaking read. This novel brings out secrets, lies, deceits, anguish, and emotional rollercoasters.

    The book follows the lives of Christina who is an interior designer with a young child Bianca who is the love of her life. Christina works for the very good looking but married Jackson Plummer. Down the track, they unite in an affair as a secret couple.

    Jackson spends alot of time overseas and with his own family so he needs to find a place where he and Christina can live and be more secluded. They find this place called Bartholomews Run – perfect rambling old century house. Christina had the run of being able to restore the house. It kept her entertained and busy.

    Jackson became the perfect stepfather to Bianca, showering her with gifts but he could also be strict in not allowing her to be with others. He loved Christina so much also. Actually, in reading at the beginning, I thought I was seeing a bit of 50 shades of Grey which was quite full on.

    As I kept reading it came to be me how loving someone so much can blind side at what is in front of you. The signs were there as I was reading and I was feeling on edge. I really had to turn the pages as I really wanted to know where the story was leading to even though, I knew in my heart, what could be happening. The signs are there to actually notice, but there is always that glimmer of hope when reading, that is not what is happening.

    Towards the end of the book, you learn that things like this are an everyday occurrence and it is very heartbreaking knowing this. Meredith has completely researched this subject, so much with so much detail, that I wonder if she has had some experience of it through someone elses eyes
    .
    There are other characters in the book that are warm especially Christina’s mother Rosa and her dear friend Della.

    As I neared the end of the book, I felt compassion for Christina, highly respected Bianca and how she dealt with everything within her years of growing up.

    I ended up with emotional tears at the end of finishing. My heart was heavy and it made me think of real life situations. I think a little piece of me is still left in the book because I loved the characters and wanted to stay with them and give comfort.

    This is definitely a compelling and powerful read and also hard. I am glad that I read this book though and thank you to Beauty and Lace and Meredith Jaffe for giving me the opportunity.

  3. Wow! What a powerful story. As other people have mentioned, it’s a hard book to review as much for the type of content as well as not wanting to give out any spoilers. I liked that I ‘knew’ what the big secret was early on in the story. Stories that keep the secret too long can be frustrating to read. Each new piece of information that I read added to my theory, which was eventually confirmed near the end of the story. As I read more and more, I found it really difficult to put the book down, but the kids needed feeding and the washing was piling up!

    It was a story that we hear so much more in the media now than we have ever heard before and it seemed so ‘true’ that I could see how easy it could be happening right under our very noses without any of us even realising.

    A heartbreaking story that really was a fantastic read. Thank you Beauty and Lace for a great review >:o)

  4. Thank you for the opportunity to read the making of Christina by Meredith Jaffe. I was taken in by the mystery aspect of the story.

    Christina is a single mother to a young daughter Bianca. She doesn’t appear to do much for herself and is immersed in an interior design job for millionaire Jackson Plummer. He seems to have it all – money, he’s nice to her and her daughter, but does have a family. Him and Christina have an affair which turns into a relationship. Jackson wants to get away from the city so Christina finds a large run-down estate in the country which becomes her project, especially for its historical content. This aspect was quite interesting, peeling back the layers.

    As she is so busy she doesn’t pay too much attention to what is going on around her and finds that Bianca is changing from her best friend to a sullen teenager. When she finds out the reason it bursts apart the life she thought she wanted / needed.

    Thankfully her family and close friends are still there for her as she needs them more than she realises. Life will never be the same and she doesn’t know if she will ever get Bianca back.

    This is a story of Christina’s journey told in a very real way which gets you thinking how you would handle something similar.

  5. Christina is 45 years old when we are first introduced to her in the story, and she resides with her recently widowed mum, Rosa, in Tasmania.
    She has a daughter Bianca who is in Costa Rica, and Christina is hoping that she will return home for Christmas.

    The story takes us back in time to when Christina once landed a job for a very wealthy businessman, Jackson Plummer after she was hired to help redesign and organise the renovation of his family home in Sydney.
    Jackson was a married man and Christina was separated from Bianca’s dad, Jamie. She was juggling life with her two year-old, work, and never-ending expenses.
    Even though Jackson was married, he falls for Christina, and they begin having an affair.
    It turns into more of a serious relationship over the course of time, although Jackson is often away overseas on business trips and still remains married.
    He forms a strong bond with Bianca and showers both her and Christina with love.
    Jackson buys a property, Bartholemew’s Run, and it is there where they spend most of their time together when he manages to get away from his busy lifestyle.
    Christina notices that Bianca becomes rather withdrawn and sullen as she grows.
    But when she discovers the reason behind her daughter’s pain, life for them will never be the same again.
    I can’t elaborate much more than that as I don’t want to spoil the story for others.
    It was a sad story that was told very well.
    I would’ve liked it better if it was told from a few points of view, not just Christina’s (I would’ve particularly liked to hear from Bianca, and Jackson’s wife, Sarah).
    I thoroughly enjoyed The Fence by the same author, and felt it was better out of the two books, but this is still well worth reading. Thankyou for the opportunity to read and review.

  6. Thank you Beauty and Lace for letting me review the book The Making of Christina by Meredith Jaffe.

    It is about 45 year old interior designer Christina Clementine and her daughter Bianca. Christina gets to work for business man Jackson Plummer who is married to Sarah. Christina and Jackson start an intense affair, which may be why she doesn’t realise what’s going on around her.

    Jackson has to travel overseas often to see his family and they try to find somewhere to see each other. Jackson also seems to get along well with Bianca. They find and meet at a run down country estate. That keeps Christina busy doing the place up with her interior design.

    Christina sees a change in Bianca, she seems quieter and withdrawn. Christina soon finds out the reason why and it is explosive affecting everyone. I find it hard to review this book not only because of the subject matter but I don’t want to give too much away.

    This book is very powerful and well written. There were times I found it difficult to read but it is an eye opener. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

  7. The Making of Christina is a powerful and gut wrenching novel that explores into the strains placed on family relations, at a time of an unthinkable crisis. Meredith Jaffe’s second novel demonstrates her flair in storytelling on the domestic front. Jaffe is readily able to expose the lives of ordinary people, faced with all too real situations that shatter their current way of life.

    Much praise has been awarded to Australian writer, Meredith Jaffe author of The Fence, a book that I have sadly had languishing on my sagging bookshelves, calling out to be read. Knowing this author has been highly commended for her work on her first novel, which was focussed on life on the domestic front, I was keen to get started on my copy of The Making of Christina. I finished this book yesterday and while I am writing this review, I can still feel myself shaking from the events that occurred in the novel. The Making of Christina was one of the hardest books I have read for some time, due to the heart breaking subject matter. I also suspect that this one of those books that won’t be leaving my mind for some time. Even now, my mind is questioning the events in the novel, the reactions of the characters and how I would respond if I was put in Christina’s shoes.

    Jaffe’s narrative unfolds by flipping between the past and present. It is a convincing, as well as compelling style of storytelling. Jaffe sets the main events to come in the most ideal way, giving solid hints as to the earth shattering big secret Bianca holds, without giving the whole play of events away too early. It allows the reader to take an active and creative role in theorising over what might have happened to Bianca (for the record I had a pretty good idea).

    Jaffe’s characterisation must be commended. Her characters are grounded in the everyday, so that it easy to relate to this set of protagonists. Each character is flawed in their own way (some more than others) but this exasperates the realism of the novel. The response each character has to the situations they are faced with is relatable and authentic. I found the accompanying dialogue compelling. The strikingly real nature of Bianca’s secret hits the reader hard, especially for those who may have a teenage daughter in the same age bracket as Bianca.

    A side aspect of The Making of Christina which I enjoyed very much and helped to detract from the dark and serious main subject matter, was the mystery involving the run down farm property Christina acquires. It is no secret that I adore stories centered on rambling houses and the mysteries they have to offer the reader. I appreciated the opportunity to work with Christina to uncover the secrets Bartholomews Run had to offer. It presented me with a little distraction, when the rest of the story gets a little heavy going and emotionally upsetting.

    There is no doubt that Meredith Jaffe has done her homework on the main subject matter of her story. The acknowledgements section at the close of the novel highlights this thoroughly. I applaud Jaffe for the persistence she has applied to bringing this story to her audience, it was certainly a labour of love, taking up over nine and half years of Jaffe’s life to finally come to fruition. My hope for novels such as Jaffe’s is that they work to cross difficult but highly important and topical territory. I have faith that readers whom have been impacted by situations similar to Bianca’s, will find this book gives them a sense of understanding, power and encouragement.

    An emotionally arresting story, The Making of Christina was a novel that challenged me reading wise, due to the morally compromising main subject matter. It is the type of novel you will not want to read in isolation, you will want to mull over it and then discuss, reach out and share your thoughts with other readers – I know I did once I finished it. I recommend The Making of Christina to all readers as there are glimpses of us all inside this resonating tale.
    *I wish to thank Beauty and Lace /Pan Macmillan for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  8. The Making of Christina is a powerful and deeply emotional story. The story deals with family abuse and is roar in its exploration of this. Christina, the mother narrates the story and it flips between the current and past . The relationship between Christina and Jackson is at the centre of this story.

    As a single mum of a daughter I related to this story, not the abuse, but wanting to protect my daughter and being disappointed she doesn’t have a father.

  9. I found this book quite hard to read and fairly harrowing. After hearing glowing reviews of Meredith Jaffe’s debut novel The Fence (which I haven’t yet read!!), I was really keen to read this new book. The story is a powerful study of manipulation, financial abuse and betrayal. Sadly, the sense of entitlement and the bullying tactics employed by Jackson (a man accustomed to getting his own way by any means necessary) are seen all too commonly in society.

    I never really warmed to Jackson’s character so it was hard to see Christina getting sucked in to his evil web. I found the distance between Christina and Bianca devastatingly sad and felt Christina must have been so lonely at Bartholomew’s Run.

    The strength and positivity of Bianca was a welcome golden lining at the end of the book. I’m sure in real life there are not always such positive outcomes.

    A very interesting book tacking some heavy subject matter. I think I’ll need a more light-hearted book to follow though!

    Thanks to Beauty and Lace for the preview.

  10. When I read the synopsis of the book I was really I interested in reading it based on the description of a couple moving to a run down preoperty and uncovering the history of the property. I should perhaps have read more descriptions that give clues as to the content of the book as it threw me a little when I started reading the book that it was an affair and then the darker side to the story.
    I felt the book was well written and reasearched and have read both fiction and non-fiction books that cover the same topics and with an equal amount of sensitivity and responsibility to portraying this in the right manner. Having said that, I would be conscious of who I recommend this book to as I know that it would trigger some friend’s based on their lived experiences.

  11. Wow, I don’t know where to start about this book. It has so many emotions throughout the book, there were times I felt sad, shocked, lost, and yet, wanted to know more. It is a serious storyline, and sometimes, I found myself having to put the book down, go for a little walk and then come back to it.

    It is fairly easy to read, although some parts, I had to read again to make sure I understood what was happening. The storyline is interesting and gripping, and incredibly real and confronting at certain points.
    I also liked the aspect that this book made me think of what was happening and then try to realise if I was right or not.
    This book is about a mother and teenage daughter relationship, and more. It’s also how we deal with confronting issues which happen in our society.
    It is a slightly heavy sort of read, but worth the effort once I got into it.

    Thank you BeautyandLace for this reading opportunity.

  12. Thank you Beauty and Lace and Pan Macmillan Australia for the book to read.
    Many thanks to Meredith Jaffe for creating a story that we don’t really want to admit happens.

    Ok Here goes.
    The Making of Christina is a book about love, lies, betrayal, deception and heartbreak but it’s also so much more than that.

    Here is a story that could be a real story in anyone’s life. It’s so relevant and not really something that you think you want to read about but it’s written in a way that brings a life and a softness to it all.
    Meredith doesn’t hide the reality or the truth but encases it all in a story that strange to say becomes a must read that you will enjoy.

    It begins with Christina standing on the verandah of her mother’s house four days before Christmas wondering if her daughter Bianca is coming home for Christmas.
    The story then takes us back to Christina a single mum with a daughter Bianca who occasionally sees her father Jamie.
    We travel through the story of how Christina meets Jackson through her work and how they form a relationship. This is an interesting and enjoyable story that plays out well through the book.

    There will be a chapter every now and then that brings us back to today and the way the journey has impacted on how the lives of Christina and those around her have traveled.
    What starts out as a romantic love story turns into something so much more powerful and horrific than you could ever think.

    Every parent wants to protect their child but this story shows that sometimes love just ain’t enough and things could be happening right under your nose.

    This is such an amazing, powerful ‘real’ story that you must read.

  13. The Making of Christina by Meredith Jaffe was for me a deeply disturbing book. You are put into both the past and the present as the book progresses with the story.
    Christina Clemente is an interior designer and single mum of one, Bianca. Christina’s world is busy and revolves around her work and her daughter. Christina, being lonely after her divorce from her husband and living far from her parents leans heavily on her friends and soon becomes involved in an affair with client, Jackson Plummer.
    Jackson is wealthy, charismatic and MARRIED with 3 children. Their affair continues for many years before Jackson suggests moving to an isolated part of the country – supposedly so that his ex-wife and children will leave himself, Christina and Bianca in peace but Jackson’s motives are much more sinister.
    Whilst Christina is busy with the renovations of the house and gardens, Bianca becomes more and more withdrawn so that the once close relationship that mother and daughter shared becomes shattered. Christina is just glad that Jackson seems to have a rapport with her daughter. Little does she realise it is not all as it seems.
    I would like to thank Beauty and Lace and Pan Macmillan for the opportunity to read The Making of Christina, a book of which I am still of two minds about.

  14. I have to say I found this a really challenging read. The content was difficult at times, but I also found the flow a little off. I had high expectations for this book, and was left a little underwhelmed. I found this book to meander a little too much, and was somewhat predictable. The development of relationships was well captured though, however it’s hard to reconcile the character flaws in Jackson with the descriptions at the start of the book.

    I enjoyed the mysteries of Batholomews Run, and also some of the insight as to what goes on when restoring an old building. I liked the way that the characters could be related to. The way there everyday lives are described is realistic and interesting. However I found myself frustrated with the seemingly obvious which Christina was blind to.

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace Bookclub and Pan Macmillon for the opportunity to read this book.

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