I was looking forward to reading this book, which was bought for me as a present, because I was drawn to the picture on the front. It tackles the highly emotive subject of infertility and the longing to have a baby.
Rose and Johnny are in their 30's. Rose, a photographer, is happy with the way things are but Johnny feels it is time they had a child together. Rose stalls at first, but they start trying, to no success. They eventually go to the doctor and IVF treatment is suggested because Johnny's sperm count is low. Three lots of IVF treatments later and Rose and Johnny are coming apart at the seams, the stress, the dashed hopes and the strain of the treatment is taking its toll. Rose is now considering desperate options to make their wishes come true.
Rebecca Frayn is a film maker who has worked on Cutting Edge and The South Bank Show on TV (among others). She has also undergone IVF treatment herself, so knows first hand the rollercoaster that must accompany these experiences, and she explores every facet and possibility that arises with such a situation, the emotional ups and downs, the obsessional longing, and the strain it places on a relationship. It is sensitively and thoroughly written. However, there are times, especially during the first half, that the book feels journalistic, like a documentary that I've seen before, and sadly that is where I found it disappointing.
Rose's character does develop with the responsibility of the treatments and keeping her husband happy, especially during the second half where there are some well crafted paragraphs. In contrast, Johnny seems to behave like a petulant child, largely unsupportive while she undergoes various tiresome, sometimes undignified and uncomfortable procedures to fulfill his wish for a child. She was the one reluctant at first, but gave in because she loves him. He spends much of the story being moody, and barely civil towards her, absorbed in his own grievances, unless he is getting what he wants. The story is told from her point of view but she remains forgiving and understanding as her own need for a baby grows. The other characters are representations to furnish the different sides to their predicament - the highly fertile friends, the gay friend and potential sperm donor... The ending was not a complete surprise either.
The book is certainly representative of our modern times, IVF becoming a more common option for desperate couples. There is also the angle that, while genuine people have been saved by this treatment, how much does it serve our growing psychologies of acquirement, the consumer within us that demands the right to have what we want. There is lots to consider in discussion.
I was trying to think who would enjoy this novel. People who have gone through IVF have probably had enough of it to want to read about it. Possibly those involved in councelling or the medical industry may gain some insights, or relatives of a loved one undergoing such trauma's to their lives. From a literary point of view I found it one dimensional. Yes, I did want the blue line to show on each pregnancy test, for all of her efforts to pay off, so her husband will start to speak to her again and they could get on with their lives. Generally though, I found it dull, and as a novel and not a biography, it could have been deeper, more imaginative and therefore wring every emotion out of the reader in a very profound way. It remains that the thing I liked the most was the picture on the cover.
For an interesting interview, Making babies the Noughties way, with Rebecca Frayn, about her own experiences that drove her to write the book, click on this link...