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The Testament of Jessie Lamb Paperback – 5 Jul 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Main edition (5 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857864181
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857864185
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 398,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jane Rogers has written 8 novels including Mr Wroe's Virgins (which she dramatised as an award-winning BBC drama serial), Her Living Image (Somerset Maugham Award), and Promised Lands (Writers Guild Best Fiction Award).
She also writes radio drama (most recently Dear Writer, BBC afternoon play), and adaptations (most recently The Custom of the Country, Classic serial, Jan 2010).
She is Professor of Writing at Sheffield Hallam University and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
The film of her novel Island is due for release this summer. Her short story 'Hitting trees with sticks' was shortlisted in the 2009 National Short Story Award, and she is currently working on a short story collection.
For reviews, interviews, and details of books please see

Product Description


You'll be blown away by this. (Independent)

By far the most moving of all the 138 [Booker] entries. (Chris Mullin Evening Standard)

A dark, powerful and disturbing story asking difficult questions about science, sex, and survival. (Michele Roberts)

Like The Handmaid's Tale colliding with Children Of Men. (Herald)

Jane Rogers has captured Jessie's voice brilliantly, alternating a teenager's solipsism with a growing awareness of the wider world . . . The reader is torn between her clear, unequivocal conclusions and the intricate, heartfelt compromises of her parents. (TLS)

The scary thing about this novel is that the questions it raises are so close to home . . . The novel does not set up an elaborate apocalypse, but astringently strips away the smears hiding the apocalypses we really face. Like Jessie's, it is a small, calm voice of reason in a nonsensical world. (Independent)

Marvellous. (Daily Mail)

Based on a premise so terrifyingly plausible you're half-afraid the book might fall into the hands of some ruthless bio-terrorists with the keys to an IVF lab...Rogers brilliantly characterises the self-centred logic of an obstreperous teenager (Alfred Hickling Guardian)

This is an Atwoodian exploration of new technologies and implications for womankind (Emma Hagestadt Independent)

Terrifyingly plausible . . . a well-written and thought provoking read . . . This is what good science fiction should be: smart, realistic, engaging (Curious Book Fans)

Book Description

Would you fight to save the world your parents have destroyed?

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Ripple TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
The subject matter of "The Testament of Jessie Lamb" ensures that this is not a comfortable read. Set in the near future, Rogers has imagined a truly terrifying virus that affects pregnant women, known as Maternal Death Syndrome or MDS. Everyone carries this illness but the effects, a cross between AIDS and CJD, ensure that all pregnant mothers will die - without exception. Scientists have found a way to save some of the unborn children, but only by placing their mothers in a chemically induced coma from which they won't recover. Now though, the scientists have also discovered a way of immunising frozen, pre-MDS embryos which, if they can be placed in a willing volunteer, may ultimately allow the survival of the human race. However, the volunteers need to be under 16½ or the likely success rates are too low. Step forward one Jessie Lamb.

The Booker longlist can be relied on to throw up at least one novel on a controversial subject. Last year it was "The Slap". This year it's this novel. There's no doubt it asks awkward and unsettling questions about a variety of issues including the age at which people can take informed decisions, the rights and wrongs of scientific research and animal testing and the right anyone has to chose their own death. There are no easy answers to any of these questions of course.

As you might infer from the title, the story is written from a first person narrative by Jessie. Often with first person narratives it's difficult to get a true steer on the character herself. Effectively she's dealing with the usual teen dramas of arguing parents, failed love and general `what's the point of me?' stuff. She's into environmentalism and vegetarianism, all in the idealistic way of many of her age.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sid Nuncius HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on 26 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I thought this was an excellent book. A good number of other reviewers here obviously don't agree, but I found it thoughtful, gripping and very well written.

The plot has been well rehearsed elsewhere, but revolves around a 16-year-old narrator, Jessie Lamb, in a near future in which a virus has begun to cause the death of any woman who becomes pregnant. Jane Rogers uses this to reflect on a number of social issues including attitudes to women, animal research and so on. She also paints very sharp portraits of conflicting pressure-groups, both politically and religiously motivated, and of their utter moral certainty and the consequences of their conviction that they alone can see the truth.

What makes this really good, though, is Jessie's voice. I found her a completely convincing and rather engaging portrait of an adolescent, with that odd mixture of utter certainty that they can see the truth and insecurity in their search for ideas and identity, of both deep love for her parents and utter rage at them, and so on . No easy answers are presented, and there are few, if any, out-and-out good guys and bad guys, which I think is a real strength of the book. I found that the story built to a gripping climax despite there being no car chases or stand-offs with a killer. It's a beautifully written and structured tale

I would warmly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a readable, gripping and thought-provoking book.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Fridaydalek on 8 May 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
A worthy winner of the 2012 Arthur C Clarke award.

Clear, uncluttered writing and a 16 year old protagonist do not (necessarily) make this a young adult's book. Whilst not gratuitous or frequent, there's sex, violence and strong language here. And it's unflinchingly presented: no rose-tinted, watered down view of the real world here.

There are many themes to this book, and like all good science fiction it's a lens through which to view our own world. Through Jessie we witness varying views on environmentalism, activism, poverty, feminism, the media, genetic engineering and stem cell research. This is painted against a convincing backdrop of a world facing a disaster that's imminent enough to be a real threat but distant enough that attempts to combat it are divided and morally incompatible; human nature being what it is, people simply prefer to argue with each other.

A dollop of on-the-nose hypocrisy from Jessie's beloved parents (they advocate an extreme solution, as long as it doesn't involve their own daughter) brings the worldwide tragedy down to the family level; and it's shocking and powerful just how ordinary that family is.

Jessie herself is clear-thinking and resolute, but there are questions raised as to whether she truly realises the enormity of what she's undertaking. And these questions remain beautifully unanswered.

The book can be interpreted in many ways, and has many themes; my own interpretation is that it's an examination of abortion and a woman's right to choose, inverted through a science fiction world: here we have young women determined that their children have a right to life, even when it costs their own.

Highly recommended.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By R. A. Davison TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 9 Feb. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My overwhelming reaction to The Testament Of Jessie Lamb, is surprise, surprise in fact that it has been nominated for this years Booker Prize and is currently on the longlist. Not because it's a bad book, in the way that say There But For The by Ali Smith is, in my opinion, a bad book, but because I was surprised it met the criteria.

In the case of this book, it appears to have been marketed as adult contemporary fiction and only has an adult imprint, a decision I find a little baffling, for a novel whose audience I would see as a GCSE student. As a piece of young adult dystopian fiction it is good, but I've read better, most notably The Giver by Lois Lowry and The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness to which it shares a similarity in an aspect of plot.

It lacks much in originality I felt given its similarity in theme to The Children Of Men by PD James, later adapted for the screen starring Clive Owen. In the world of Jessie Lamb, there has been an act of bio-terrorism, as a consequence there has been a global fertility crisis. When women get pregnant - they die. (Hang on a minute? Wasn't that what happened to pregnant women on the island in LOST as well?) In this brave new world, set not far from our present, no more children are being born and the population of women is dropping, as those who do get pregnant never survive.

Jessie Lamb is 16, and when we meet her she is being held captive, and she recounts for us what has been happening to ordinary people since the crisis emerged. At 16, Jessie is idealistic and looking for a cause, and causes find her. The animal rights movement, the womens movement, the Noahs, and YOFI. There is a degree of cynicism in Jane Roger's writing about young people who look for a cause to be involved with.
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