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The Testament of Jessie Lamb [Paperback]

Jane Rogers
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 Feb 2011
LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2011 Women are dying in their millions. Some blame scientists, some see the hand of God, some see human arrogance reaping the punishment it deserves. Jessie Lamb is an ordinary girl living in extraordinary times: as her world collapses, her idealism and courage drive her towards the ultimate act of heroism. If the human race is to survive, it s up to her. But is Jessie heroic? Or is she, as her father fears, impressionable, innocent, incapable of understanding where her actions will lead? Set just a month or two in the future, in a world irreparably altered by an act of biological terrorism, The Testament of Jessie Lamb explores a young woman s determination to make her life count for something, as the certainties of her childhood are ripped apart.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Sandstone Press; First Edition, First Printing edition (25 Feb 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905207581
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905207589
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 386,587 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.
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Product Description


A little like The Handmaids Tale colliding with Children Of Men, Jane Rogers eighth novel offers a variation on one of the most chilling apocalyptic scenarios. In the near future, every woman in the world has been infected by some kind of airborne contaminant which causes maternal death syndrome (MDS). Anyone who becomes pregnant will automatically develop a form of CJD which ultimately kills them. She also quite explicitly carries over themes from her earlier bestseller, Mr Wroes Virgins, which, recast for the genome-mapping, eco-terrorist 21st century, prove soberingly durable. ALASTAIR MABBOTT --The Herald PAPERBACK OF THE WEEK

With Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go having hit the big screen, this is set to be a good year for literary dystopias that pack an emotional punch. With that adaptation, it's a case of if you like the film, you'll love the book, but if you can take any more bleakness you'll be blown away by this new novel by Jane Rogers. The scary thing about this novel is that the questions it raises are so close to home. Must women always be the victims and the fall guys? 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. KATY GUEST --The Independent

Jane Rogers has captured Jessie's voice brilliantly, alternating a teenager's solipsism with a growing awareness of the wider world. Jessie's self-conviction is both admirable and infuriating, and the reader is torn between her clear, unequivocal conclusions and the intricate, heartfelt compromises of her parents. LUCY DALLAS --Times Literary Supplement

Jane Rogers has captured Jessie's voice brilliantly, alternating a teenager's solipsism with a growing awareness of the wider world. Jessie's self-conviction is both admirable and infuriating, and the reader is torn between her clear, unequivocal conclusions and the intricate, heartfelt compromises of her parents. LUCY DALLAS --Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Jane Rogers has written eight novels including Her living Image (Somerset Maugham Award), Mr Wroe s Virgins, Promised Lands (Writers Guild Best Novel Award), Island (Orange long-listed), and The Voyage Home. Both Island and Mr Wroe s Virgins were selected as New York Times Notable Books . Her novels have been translated into German, Dutch, French, and Hebrew. She has written drama for radio and TV, including an award-winning adaptation of Mr Wroe s Virgins, directed by Danny Boyle. Her radio work includes both original drama and Classic Serial adaptations. She has taught writing at the University of Adelaide, Paris Sorbonne IV, and on a radio-writing project in Eastern Uganda. She is Professor of Writing at Sheffield Hallam University, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She lives on the edge of the moors in Lancashire.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER
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 16 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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing view of the near future 28 Feb 2014
By David H J Ashdown TOP 500 REVIEWER
Jessie Lamb is a 16 year old girl with a conscience living in the near future where an apparently man made virus , MDS , is infecting everyone and killing all women if they conceive by an aggressive neurological degeneration that only takes a few weeks and killing the foetus as well . The disease is similar to AIDS and CJD but much quicker acting , Jessie's solution to the crisis is both noble and self-sacrificing but as the book progresses you wonder if she's doing the right thing. Very tense writing makes this a thought provoking and dark read. Highly recommended
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent, thought-provoking read 26 Sep 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars To save the world....
Here is a novel that makes you think. Someone, we don't find out who, has made a virus that affects pregnant women. Read more
Published 7 months ago by book fan
3.0 out of 5 stars Simplistic and rushed.
A promising start and great idea but far too simplistic. Explanations are vague and ideas are rushed through. Read more
Published 10 months ago by M. E. Cole
1.0 out of 5 stars Really Disappointing
I bought this because it won the Arthur C Clarke award and I am tired of reading unimaginative, poorly written science-fiction. Read more
Published 13 months ago by TG
4.0 out of 5 stars I was on the parents' side
I actually can't get enough of good dystopian novels. For most of the time while reading it, I thought this novel was great. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Susan Glazier
4.0 out of 5 stars Good story
This is a very good story but rather depressing - I guess that's the nature of dystopian fiction? I was hoping for a happy ending but that wouldn't have been true to the nature of... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Amanda Elliott
3.0 out of 5 stars Teen style - but with adult content
Odd mix - written like it is targeted at young teens but graphic content stops it being suitable for them. Read more
Published 14 months ago by C. G. Whitaker
4.0 out of 5 stars Not your every day dystopia
In a world where getting pregnant is a death sentence, would you do it if it might save others?

That's basically the premise, and it's an unusual perspective in the... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Catriona Reid
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Idea But I Couldn't Warm To The Characters
Jane Rogers is excellent in putting questions into the reader's head; why is Jessie restrained? who is restraining her? where is she? Read more
Published 18 months ago by JohnBrassey
4.0 out of 5 stars A departure for Rogers
It is an indictment of our publishing industry that Jane Rogers, once published by giants such as Little, Brown and Faber, must now be content with finding a home at tiny... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Rob Spence
3.0 out of 5 stars The Children of Men for teenagers
My husband is an ex-bookseller and corrected me when I described The Testament of Jessie Lamb as a Young Adult novel - apparently it is classed as contemporary fiction, which is a... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Amazon Customer
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