Tuesday 29 April 2014

Mr B's Reading Year - The Testament of Jessie Lamb

A little late - but here is my review (I've been snowed under with things to read!)

My next Mr B's Reading Year book arrived in the post, looking as wonderful as always...

This is the most exciting part - beautifully wrapped, with their distinctive seal, trying hard not to rip the nice paper in my eagerness to see what book Emma (my bibliotherapist) has sent me...

This month was The Testament of Jessie Lamb. I had never actually heard of it, or of Jane Rogers, the author, although it has been longlisted for the Man Booker! And I thought I was aware of books that on the Booker list! It was a little while ago (2011), so there is my excuse...

Because of this, I had expected it to be an adult book: as far as I know, the Man Booker doesn't branch out into young adult literature. Now, to me, The Testament of Jessie Lamb felt very much like young adult literature, and possibly young-ish young adult at that! Since I was expecting to read quite a different book than the one it turned out to be, this could have been why I didn't get on with it as well as I was expecting. Don't get me wrong - I love YA - but I had been looking forward to a really meaty adult book. YA can be meaty as well, but this didn't quite reach that for me.

Anyway, let me move on. The Testament of Jessie Lamb is another apocalyptic saga. It moves between two time periods in Jessie's life: her present and her recent past. In this dystopian future, a virus has been unleashed that effectively kills women who are pregnant. All of the women pregnant at the time died, along with their babies, and it seems as though human life is doomed to extinction.

But, no! There is an experimental solution: women can opt to be 'sleeping beauties.' They will be artificially inseminated, and put into a coma from which they will never give up, but the babies may survive. It is the ultimate sacrifice: giving your life for the human race, through a virgin birth. Of course, the parallels to Jessie Lamb are blindingly obvious (Jessie, Jesus; Lamb, lamb of God) and she volunteers to be one.

I won't give away any more of the story, but this is the central dilemna. There is also a lot of the 'normal' things that appear in dystopian novels: male supremacy, people believing that it is some sort of punishment, cults and sects appearing, children rejecting their parents, riots, looters, rape... That's quite a list!

I didn't quite warm to Jessie. As a narrator, she didn't feel quite real enough for me. I wanted to enjoy this book a lot more than I did, unfortunately. It has such an interesting premise, but has been sort of filed in my head as 'another dystopian futuristic novel.' The other characters seemed more rounded than she did, but essentially the novel was a little flat for me. Bit of a shame, but not the end of the world!

Thank you Mr B's and Emma for my latest installment!

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