Wow – what an emotional rollercoaster this book is! It’s very impressive for a debut novel. Well-written, believable and compelling.
The concept of the novel is that a technique for two-mother IVF (with no male involvement) is approved for a clinical trial in the UK. Jules and Rosie are the first couple to have the treatment; the prospect of a baby girl (because the technique means that only girls can be produced) with the genes of both women is so exciting that they don’t fully realise the negative impact that the media attention will have on their lives. It’s not science fiction – the situation is so near in the future – but a contemporary exploration of relationships, motherhood and the media. Jules, the narrator, is a journalist for the local newspaper in Portsmouth. It’s interesting to see her perspectives from both sides of journalism, as the reporter and the person being reported on. She has some horrible experiences, which often have a homophobic angle. At the same time, she’s not sure she wants a baby at all, only having agreed to it for Rosie’s happiness. She doesn’t know what a mother is supposed to be, having lost hers very early and been brought up by her cynical drug-dealer father. Rosie’s parents, by contrast, appear to be the ideal.
I found reading this book to be a tense, even stressful experience. It’s sobering to realise the media intrusion that is experienced daily for many people and that where the ethics of parenting are at stake, how vindictive the seemingly good people can be. The reproductive technology is controversial but I feel that the story itself is not. The perspective is firmly in favour of babies with two female parents being equally valid as any other form of parenting, so the central theme is not really about whether it’s right or wrong. It’s about the impact on Jules and Rosie’s relationship due to other people’s reactions and also the need to tell the truth.
Highly recommended. First published in 2018 by Dialogue Books.