Friday, 26 August 2016

Book Review: The Book Of The Unnamed Midwife (The Road To Nowhere Book 1) by Meg Elison


Shared with me by Publisher : 47North via Netgalley

This book will appeal to anyone who likes a post apocalyptic tale with something more complex to say about women than throwing a teen girl into peril and seeing her and her beau fight their way out. This reminds me of a more knowing cross between The Road and The Handmaid's tale. It is much more than a sum of those two parts though.

The population has been almost wiped out. Women and newborns in particular have been decimated by a virus. Men roam the land, many of them abducting surviving women. 

A Survivor of the fever and midwifery expert writes a journal of her experiences after the first wave of deaths.

The device of these journals being the cornerstone of learning for some future civilisation is a clever segue into the tale and a gripping read it is. You have to have your wits about you as the PoV shifts between journal and straight prose often and the midwife uses many an alias to protect herself from detection by men who might mean her harm so you have to keep an eye on the name she gives to the next set of folk she comes upon.

The repeated use of  the "= " sign to abbreviate ideas  or to convey  blunt statements  takes a lot of getting used to stylistically but one supposes it is fitting when the writer would always have one eye on perceiving any hazards or threats and not a lot of access  to stationary. 

The style is blunt and spare but very fitting for a story of this type.

I like the Unnamed Midwife very much.She is tough, she is resourceful and she is determined. Pretending to be a boy is an inspired idea and she pulls it off on the whole. She will not become a chattel or a commodity and actively attempts to pass out contraceptive devices to prevent further infant or mother mortality. This becomes the central duality of the story by preventing pregnancy is she in fact helping the population? Or is she helping to wipe out Humanity entirely?

This book could have been a much more strident morality tale, but I think in a way it would have suffered if that was the emphasis. Yes,the treatment the women get from the remaining men is appalling and all the sickening fears you imagine as a woman safe in a healthy world are present; rape, mutilation  and imprisonment. There  is no denying the world Meg Elison creates is horrific and frightening but also there is strength and hope to be had.

The book itself is a testament to the different ways humanity and in particular women are strong, The midwife is a realist who eschews false hope, the Queens in the Hives also are showing strength to take back autonomy for their own destinies. For others it is the women's faith in  the renewal and rebirth power of procreation, the hope that their bodies might be the nurturing place that brings a healthy baby into the world and  that they might, just might survive to see it thrive.

I enjoyed this book very much, it truly was a journey and one that I will be suggesting others take. The beauty of the book is that we learn the fates of all the main protagonists even when the "Midwife" does not,which makes for a very nuanced book filled with vignettes of sadness, but also a satisfying feeling of a story completed.

Five stars.

I cannot wait for new books in this series.

1 comment:

  1. I will be jotting this book down so I can buy it when it comes out, it sounds like a wonderful read.

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