[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]
A provoking and interesting read, not so far removed (in fact, not far removed at all) from current political and scientific controversies when it comes to embryo research, LGBTQ+ rights, and rising intolerance.
Juliet and Rosie apply to a newly approved research program that will allow them to conceive a child “ovum to ovum”. The point: having THEIR child, of course, and not needing to rely on a stranger’s sperm. Huge uproar ensues throughout the UK and the rest of the world, led, it seems, not so much by fears for the children thus conceived (although some characters do voice concerns about potential genetic flaws), but by the fear of men being made redundant. Which didn’t surprise me at all, and was, I think, spot on: should such research be developed in our world, I bet that we’d face this very kind of arguments. (It’s like all that rage against abortions, really: so many anti-choicers are all about Saving The Embryos, but you don’t see them holding out helping hands to take care of the unwanted babies once they’re born. Anyway.)
Most of the opposition to the main characters and their unborn baby also comes from sources that don’t surprise me, including a politician who’s riding the wave of Family Values because that will garner votes. It doesn’t help that the incriminated research has been unveiled by a woman, because this adds fuel to the fire, in a “feminist agenda to get rid of men” way. So we can see that from the start, the whole research and its outcome is not going to get only friends.
I did enjoy the characters’ evolution, when faced with certain choices that forced them to question their own values. On top of the obvious scientific, political and social angle, the story also raises valid questions about conceiving vs. adopting, about what it means to want a child, and why one would love (or not) said child.
I had a little trouble to get into the story at first (also because, silly me, I grabbed too many books from the library at the same time, and had to read before they expired, so it’s not just the story’s fault). I think that was because of the somewhat dry narrative style and a repetitive feeling, with Jules (the narrator) doubting her motives, then trying to convince herself that it would pass, rinse and repeat. Things picked up after a while, though, and made this book in general a worthwhile read.
The other thing that I didn’t like here was, well, the negativity. On the one hand, as mentioned previously, it didn’t surprise me, and I would totally expect harsh reactions to such research in reality. On the other hand, it also felt like 99% of the world was against Becca, Scott, Jules, Rosie, and the other people involved in this. And it made me wonder, would there be -no- support at all for something like this? It was like every newspaper, every magazine, every website only had criticism to share, and there was no blogger out there encouraging these women, approving of the research. So, it was “realistic”, but I would’ve have appreciated seeing more support for Jules and Rosie, for lesbian couples trying to have a child, etc. Seeing a story where LGBTQ+ people get nice things, too, and not mostly negative ones. (In contrast, too, when some things went well, they did so all at once, without that many consequences, which felt strange, and lacking a proper middle ground.)
Conclusion: 3.5 stars. A slow beginning, with a pace that fortunately picked up, and a tackling of issues that was both very realistic but a little too pessimistic to my liking, too.