Publisher: Fitzcarraldo Editions
Publication Date: 22nd June 2022
I feel like a stuck record when I continually say that I love books surrounding the subject of struggling mothers. This book however looks at the flip side of that I suppose whilst still dealing with the many and varied complexities of motherhood and what that means in its various forms. The flip side in this case being choosing not to have children.
Set in Mexico (translated from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey) Still Born by Guadalupe Nettel tells the two contrasting stories of friends Laura and Alina, both in their mid-thirties. From their early life together both women have always stated that they didn’t want to have children and Laura in particular looked down on women who did. However, Alina then changes her mind and decides she wants to try for a child whilst this decision cements Laura’s feelings that she wants to remain childless and so takes the decision to be sterilised.
Laura then develops an interest in her neighbours child, an 8 year old boy who regularly throws tantrums and can be heard through the walls verbally abusing his single mother. As Laura watches the pigeon nest in her garden bear eggs then fledgling birds, she contemplates the meaning of motherhood and what makes a mother, whilst getting closer to the boy next door.
Alina’s pregnancy journey is not an easy one, far from it, and she has to make some difficult decisions which in turn lead to a difficult start to motherhood.
Both women have to come to terms with their feelings around motherhood and caring for children in vastly different ways.
I enjoyed the fact that the main narrator is Laura throughout. We learn of Alina’s struggles through Laura’s eyes but still with a close attention to detail which allows us as the reader to become invested in Alina’s journey.
It is not only the two main characters and their views on motherhood we see, there is also Laura’s relationship with her own mother, and the relationship between the single mother next door and the young boy. This book makes you think about the decisions women have to make with regards to having children and the way they are treated based on those decisions.
As I mentioned, I quite regularly read around the subject of motherhood but I rarely read from the perspective of someone so assured in their decision not to have children. This was an interesting angle for me. The writing is sharp and the chapters are short which makes for a propulsive read.
I am now keen to read any other translated Guadalupe Nettel books so I’ll be on the look out!
Thank you to Clare Bogen and Fitzcarraldo Editions for my review copy.
See you all soon.