Publisher: One World Publications
Publication Date: 4th May 2023
I’m like a broken record with this but any book about a struggling new mother is like catnip to me. The Nursery tells the story of an unnamed narrator, a translator living in New York with her husband and the baby daughter she has just given birth to at the start of the novel. The baby is referred to as Button throughout the novel.
The narrator knows that she’s not the first woman to give birth but she can’t quite believe that this is what women do. She knew who she was as a successful translator and wife but now that she is a mother she feels like she is losing herself.
In the claustrophobic confines of her apartment she spends those first raw and brutal days post-birth just simply trying to survive. Losing track of time and the passing of days and nights in the exhausting sleepless landscape of new motherhood. Her body no longer feels like her own and she battles with dark thoughts about hurting her tiny fragile daughter. Her husband for his part seems largely unaffected by the arrival of the child and continues to work and sleep. He does worry that the narrator hasn’t left the apartment and gently tries to float the idea now and again.
The only punctuation in her day is the visit she gets from her elderly ailing upstairs neighbour Peter who initially comes down to complain about the noise the baby is making. Peter has lost his wife and like our narrator is pretty much trapped in the apartment block by his bad health. The narrators husband finds the visits odd but she seems to use them to navigate time and her own thoughts.
What I loved about this book was the unflinching descriptions of post-birth pain and the changes in a woman’s body. The narrator reminisces back to her pre-pregnancy days and her time being pregnant. Times when she had more of a hold on her body, mind and identity. After giving birth there are stitches and pain and milk and unusual smells and blood and exhaustion and everything she is entirely unprepared for.
The almost dream like quality of the narrative as the book progresses mirrors the sleepless struggle of the narrator as she slowly loses her grip on time and place.
I am always very much here for a book that deals with the early days of motherhood so accurately and honestly. I really enjoyed this one.
Thank you to One World Publications for my review copy.
See you all soon.