Diversity, Fiction, Literary, Loved-it, NetGalley, Women's

What If Men And Women Could Bear Children Equally? The Growing Season by Helen Sedgwick

The Growing Season

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★★★★✬  4.5 stars

I don’t think there’s a book by Helen I could hate. Maybe if she wrote it backwards with her left foot, while riding on a gray mare, also backwards over muddy marshes..? Yet, still. I think I’d love it too.

There’s just something about Helen’s style and topics that always appeals to me. When one of my Goodreads friends told me this was up on NetGalley, I did a happy dance, clapped my hands and off I went right away to request it. Although I had doubts that maybe this topic matter is not for me – I have my own psychological reservations when it comes to babies and pregnancy, it turned out to be right up my alley. I can now self-centeredly continue feeling that Helen Sedgwick writes for me.

Now that we’ve established that I’ll read anything Helen writes, let me tell you more about the book – Helen invites us to a world that’s roughly an alternate reality of ours. Everything is more or less the same, apart from one thing. Sometime between the 60s and the 70s, the pouch was invented. The pouch is an external womb, so to say – enabling absolutely everyone who wants it to have a baby – men included, infertile couples included, even gay couples included. The biggest difference from surrogate motherhood that this wonderful device brings is the fact that you can strap it on like a real belly and experience being ‘a mother’ while actually being a father or undesignated parent. Which makes the experience of motherhood accessible to everyone – equally. This is the biggest wonder, not to speak of the fact that women are suddenly men’s equals and don’t have to go through the ordeal of childbirth anymore. The world quite naturally moves towards the pouch replacing natural birth, as it’s safer (practically no chance of a miscarriage, no health risks either.)

Is this new invention a blessing or a curse? Is it ridding women of their suffering, or is it taking away they only thing that was their privilege, making them redundant? I believe this question can be answered so many ways, I struggled with how I feel about it a lot while reading The Growing Season. I believe every feminist should read this book – it poses so many important questions that every feminist should think about.

In the end, you know there is something wrong when one company manages everyone’s births, and won’t even allow the option of natural birth, if you’re not incredibly wealthy. But someone is bound to realize things are not quite alright when 50 years later the monopoly of the pouches starts offering natural birth plans again. And a former natural birth activist, a journalist and the first woman to have ever had an artificial birth baby are going to find out what it’s about.

When I put it like that, it might sound like a mystery, or a thriller. But it’s not – if you know Helen’s writing, it’s flowing and literary, it will weave strands of the story together slowly, but surely. Don’t expect adventure or mind-blowing events. This is more of a “find yourself” kind of story. You might even feel lost at first, before she brings all the separate stories together, but for me, that’s what makes the beauty of this book. If any of you have read more of her work, the themes of separation, helplessness are explored in this one as well. I also just love her writing and how it deals with emotional trauma, loss, grief. I can connect to what she writes so easily. And what’s more – Helen’s books are just so realistic – the problems don’t end with the book. Life still goes on. We just have a glimpse, and leave the characters to solve their world shattering problems on their own.

Last, but not least – spoiler time. Please don’t open the spoiler if you haven’t read the book. I still don’t really understand why 5 babies dying in the span of years is a tragedy? A lot and I mean A LOT more babies die through natural birth every year. How are 5 babies undermining everything that has to do with the technology..? That was the only logical lapse for me in this book, as I don’t think it’s any defense for natural birth – a lot more babies die naturally, mothers included. But at the very end, the book rounds this question nicely too, I suppose. What did you think?

I strongly recommend this book! It was a great reading experience. However, you should only pick it up if you are into tough, serious topics – it’s not a light read. I thank Helen Sedgwick and Random House UK, Vintage Publishing for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest review. If you’re interested in the other book of Helen’s that I reviewed, you can read the review here: The Comet Seekers.

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Have you read anything by Helen Sedgwick yet? Do you enjoy books with tough topics, rather than just entertainment?