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on 21 March 2011
The Testament of Jessie Lamb is an absorbing and vivid read, packed with incident and touching on many issues, but always maintaining an acute and intelligent focus on its main concerns: the difficult passage from childhood to adulthood, and the role of pregnancy and childbirth in female identity. In a perverse way, this novel is a twin with Cormac McCarthy's novel, The Road, but it is not an identical twin, rather an opposite and inverse twin. Both books are set in a dystopian near future, and both are concerned with the relationship between parent and child under the stress of extreme circumstances. However, where McCarthy explores the responsibilities of a father to his son, and masculine identity rooted in violence, Jane Rogers explores the difficulty of a daughter struggling to define herself in opposition to her parents, and the centrality to her quest of pregnancy, childbirth and bringing new life into the world.

The book is young Jessie's story, she occupies centre stage, living and breathing on every page, an ordinary young girl in a very recognisable but extraordinary world. A world so messed up by the "grown ups", that she and her friends no longer know if they have any future at all, due to the devastating virus Maternal Death Syndrome. The young feel powerless and angry in the face of the incompetence and greed of the adults who have made such a mess of things. As the story unfolds we learn how Jessie and her friends react to the apparent hopelessness of the situation, how they seek to take power and control of their lives, and also how they deal with the more familiar trials of teenage life: relationships, drink and drugs, sex, even politics. Her best friend retreats into hard line feminism, others get involved in terrorist campaigns against science, and some repudiate the world of adults entirely declaring them all to be unfit parents. "adults are sick...addicted...to drink...drugs...or crappy routine."

Jessie chooses a different path, and thinks she sees a kind of salvation in trying to bring a new life into the world, even at the expense of sacrificing her own life, a path which brings her into extreme opposition with her otherwise doting father and her delinquent mother who, at one point, declares, "I didn't sign up for this, I didn't ask to be the mother of Joan of f***ing Arc."

Under the pressure of a looming slow motion apocalypse, Jessie's story plays out in a steadily distorting version of our own familiar world, and as she struggles with her dilemma of creating new life through her own death she grows older, falls in love, is betrayed, encounters the effects of date rape, is kidnapped, and loses faith in her parents and their crumbling marriage. Through Jessie's eyes we encounter other responses to this strange new world: the hard line feminists of FLAME, the Christian fundamentalist `Children of Noah', the anti science group ALF, the political youth movement YOFI, and the scientists' supposed solution to the crisis, the ominously named `Sleeping Beauties'.

Rogers writes throughout with clarity and strength and examines difficult issues with an unflinching eye. This is a tough and tender tale, though it is leavened with a sly and intelligent humour, as for instance when we are first introduced to the Christian Fundamentalist group `Children of Noah' by a dripping wet rain sodden character taking refuge from a days long downpour.

To the end Jessie's faith in her future course is beset by doubts and as the story builds to its emotionally powerful climax, the reader is given no easy answers and is left to decide for themselves whether she is a saint or a fool.
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on 3 April 2011
The Testament of Jessie Lamb is set in the frighteningly near future, an apocalyptic world in which an act of biological terrorism has unleashed a virus that attacks pregnant woman, killing them quickly with a CJD-type disease. With pregnancy rendered a death sentence, the end of humankind is inevitable. Teenagers are enraged, seeing this as a consequence of adults' abuse of the planet and general misuse of their powers and responsibilities. Things would be a lot better, they reason, if young people were in charge. When scientists hit on an idea that may save the race, an opportunity presents itself for Jessie and young women like her to take the ultimate responsibility: to sacrifice themselves in order that human life may continue. What follows is a battle between Jessie and her parents over her decision. Is she a stroppy teenager who wants her parents to suffer for denying her the right to choose her own destiny, or is she a thoughtful and intelligent young woman asserting her autonomy in order to make an informed decision about how her own action or inaction might affect the course of history? Jane Rogers explores this question in a world so convincing that it actually gave me nightmares! (In a thrilling rather than terrifying way!) Jessie is a thoroughly engaging character, sometimes an infuriatingly 'normal' teenager, sometimes an insightful and mature young woman. This novel is not only a page-turner, it's a 'make you think-er', and the questions it raises stayed with me long after I read the perfectly balanced ending.
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on 14 July 2013
I actually can't get enough of good dystopian novels. For most of the time while reading it, I thought this novel was great. I loved the set up, the ideas and the disintegration of society (and relationships) that was a consequence of the catastrophe hitting Britain and the world. The book captures people's attempts to give meaning to their lives in the face of MDS - a worldwide, deadly and gruesome virus. Everyone is infected but the disease is only triggered when women become pregnant - killing them and the future generation. As other reviewers have noted, the premise that this novel is built on is similar to PD James's, "The Children of Men", where women just stop conceiving. With either version of this premise, the human race dies out. But ultimately, although really interesting, well written and had me hooked for a long time, for me, this book isn't as subtle or exciting as The Children of Men. Some others have called it "overwritten" (which it is in places) and I really hated the ending.
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on 4 September 2011
This book managed to pleasantly surprise me. I thought it would be quite a heavy subject matter but it is handled in a very approachable and thought provoking way. I really liked the interaction between Jessie and her parents in particular her father. The story is told from Jessie's point of view and the actions of those surrounding her are interpreted by her. This allows the reader at times to want to scream at her for not understanding why certain people have acted in particular ways. But she is after all a teenager trying to make sense of a very confusing world where the certainties of life have just been turned upside down. The main weakness for me was that at times her language was too mature and did not fit with a girl who was in most ways a typical 16 year old.
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on 6 April 2011
I have come across ms Rogers work previously and had hoped that her prose style had improved in this book but unfortunately it wasn't to be. Similarly, the characterisation was thin. The characters were much better drawn in her book ,Island.
But the main problem with this book is there is nothing new. If you want a 'real' dystopian novel with a feminist bent, then you would be much better with the excellently written and imagined Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood or The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall.
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on 23 July 2013
I bought this because it won the Arthur C Clarke award and I am tired of reading unimaginative, poorly written science-fiction. But the award judges must have been asleep at the wheel, because this is simply a terrible book. It's protagonist (and her friends) are caricatures of 'rebellious' teenagers everywhere without adding anything interesting, the subject matter is a rehash of old ideas and the writing is tiresome and flat.

One of the few books I haven't finished.
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on 28 June 2013
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 the work. The protagonist is a very likeable girl and her relationship with her father is very well written. A thoroughly good read and I highly recommend it.
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VINE VOICEon 25 April 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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 teen-dystopia market, which is usually more self-interested. It's a little slow at times, but it's still a great, thought-provoking read.
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on 6 September 2011
I wasn't blown away by "The Testament of Jessie Lamb" but it would be fine for a high school student. The political message was a bit heavy-handed for my tastes. It was a quick read though.
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on 24 May 2011
Science fiction set in the near future. Jessie decides to become part of an experiment following a disease that renders all pregnant women to certain death. Her father is a sceintist and knows too much about the dangers of her actions, so tries to hold her captive to avoid her becoming a "sleeping beauty". But Jessie is determined to do her bit and eventually escapes. This book is written as two concurrent stories, Jessie's diary of being held captive and the wider picture of Jessie's family and friends and how the world has got to this bizarre situation and how they are trying to deal with it. I am still not convinced that science fiction is not just an excuse to write about anything bizarre but the setting of this piece did just strike a chord of what if?
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