Women are awesome in The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Recommended, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Thoughts


An illness hits earth, and 99% of men die. And 99.8% of women die. The remainder of humanity wander and scrounge from the earth, women enslaved and objectified. And endangered – if any of them become pregnant they and their babies die. An ex-midwife is one of the few to survive, and soon finds her mission; to travel in disguise helping the women she meets as much as she can; distributing advice, medicine and contraceptives as she falls in and out with various peoples trying to make a life.

So, here we are again. Most humans have died from a disease. I’m sure I’ve read at least two of these recently in the last couple of years. This one appealed to me because of the midwife: a profession that after having my baby I greatly admire. And it was interesting

I don’t know why, as humans, we relish this kind of story. The base, survival of the fittest, reversion to territories and violence, the sects and cults that rise up. Why do we find it so fascinating? I suspect in some part it makes us feel safe and satisfied: we have not reverted to these instincts. And intrigued: would we? The novel makes good exploration of this: perhaps not hugely original but intriguing nevertheless.

The differing factor here was the gender imbalance. Almost all women become totally powerless due being quite so outnumbered and, of course, generally physically weaker. The main character is seen as a danger and abandoned early on in the novel by some gay men who had befriended her. She’s not worth the risk. Though we saw this in many iterations,

And of course, the taking of profession that sits very much in the everyday into such extreme situations was so interesting. Turning up the drama on something that’s already such an emotionally loaded job. Pushing things to their extremes. I cried more than a few times.

The book was told as a history; parts of diaries put together to note the legacy of the main character – for as you would expect, things do start, just a little, to change. The idea of a mythology of the future is interesting: that humanity could face such different times and have to adapt so completely.

And she’s a great main character. The isolation that her mission forces upon her makes her separate from everyone she meets; but she fully supports them and their missions. She’s strong, strong willed, resilient and determined. She’s fantastic.

Of this type of novel, this was good. A little emotionally harrowing (I couldn’t think about the babies very much as it’s just too emosh) but finally life affirming and interesting. I think I’m even going to add it to my recommended section!

Thanks so much to the publishers and to net galley for my review copy, much appreciated and enjoyed.

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