Saturday 30 September 2017

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison   {Reviewed by STELLA}
A woman is dealing with a virus - she’s a nurse, a midwife, and works in a large American city hospital. But this isn’t just any virus, it’s a plague, one that is fatal to nearly all women and children. Babies are stillborn or die soon after birth, their mothers not far behind them. As the authorities shut down borders and quarantine the sick, the medical teams work frantically to find a cure as they fall to the fever. Men are dying too, and the airborne virus is unstoppable. Our heroine awakes from her fever to find the hospital deadly quiet, bodies surrounding her. She leaves and walks home. The electricity is out, the roads quiet, cars abandoned, stores ransacked, no water - chaos, no people. When she wakes to find a stranger in her room, she fights him off and takes flight. And so begins her journey across America - a journey of survival. She quickly realises that she is one of very few women, and to hide she must disguise herself as a man. Groups of marauding men, gang-like in their behaviour, are out to seek every advantage, and women are in demand. Conversely, there are women (queens of a hive) who have their own male harems. There are religious cults. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison is a disquieting post-apocalyptic novel about the aftermath of a catastrophic plague. It’s a sharp look at gender politics and at power structures, and the speed of collapse of a complex society is all too devastatingly convincing. The novel is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (not so bleak, but just as gritty), Naomi Alderman’s The Power and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, and it is very good. Gripping, intriguing, with a compelling main character who will hook you immediately. Her encounters with others make perfect foils for Elison to explore the strengths and weaknesses of humans in crisis, but it is the months that the midwife spends alone that are the highlights of the novel. Her contemplation of what she had previously and her connection with this ruined world and with the increasingly new world in which she must learn to live are captivating. The series is called 'The Road to Nowhere', and the second, The Book of Etta, takes place 100 years on. Elison is working on the third and final title, The Book of Flora.

No comments:

Post a Comment