Friday 7 October 2016

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison

Book Title: The Book of the Unnamed Midwife
Author: Meg Elison
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: ARC via Netgalley
Goodreads, Amazon UK

The publisher's description on Netgalley: When she fell asleep, the world was doomed. When she awoke, it was dead. In the wake of a fever that decimated the earth’s population—killing women and children and making childbirth deadly for the mother and infant—the midwife must pick her way through the bones of the world she once knew to find her place in this dangerous new one. Gone are the pillars of civilization. All that remains is power—and the strong who possess it. A few women like her survived, though they are scarce. Even fewer are safe from the clans of men, who, driven by fear, seek to control those remaining. To preserve her freedom, she dons men’s clothing, goes by false names, and avoids as many people as possible. But as the world continues to grapple with its terrible circumstances, she’ll discover a role greater than chasing a pale imitation of independence. After all, if humanity is to be reborn, someone must be its guide.

I got an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Why did I request it? I thought the cover looks gorgeous. It won the Philip K. Dick Award in 2014 and the story sounded intriguing.

What did I think? It's definitely a gritty post-apocalyptic tale, filled with unsettling realism and quite a few triggering topics. Word of advice, if you can't cope with rape, don't pick this one up.

Imagine the flu kills 98% of humanity. Imagine it kills almost all women and we are now rare as... well, something that is very rare and everyone is basically willing to kill for it. Women become something men can own, trade, rape and possess. There's only a handful left and men are not happy about that. Pregnancy is a death sentence for the child, and usually for the mother as well.
The unnamed midwife keeps a diary so that others will remember and know what happened to the world. It's brutal. It's about survival. Birth control is essential.

There's a few things that made it hard for me to connect with the book.

I did not like any of the characters which made it difficult to care about the outcome. I especially disliked the midwife herself. It's a realistic character, flawed, with strengths and weaknesses. Well written actually. But I did not like her.

The diary entries are disjointed, written in choppy sentences and very casual English. I'm aware that I keep my diaries the same way, but I'm not aiming to ever publish them. For the sake of fiction, they could have been written better? But I seem to be in the minority, most reviews I've read so far aren't bothered by that aspect.

We also learn the fate of several characters that did not keep a diary. The author clearly thought the reader should know what happens to those characters, even though the book starts with a bunch of boys transcribing the diaries of the midwife and there's no way they'd ever learn what happened to the others. So why should the reader?

However, I guess now I'm nitpicking.

If you like post-apocalyptic stories and don't shy away from realistic stories that have no sugarcoating whatsoever, please go ahead, you will like this one.


  1. I can relate to not being bale to connect with a book because of a character. I don't think it had never happened to me until recently, when I read Me Before you. I disliked the MC so much I end up not enjoying the book

    1. You didn't like him or her? She was fairly annoying in my opinion, I quite liked him though. In the film it was even worse, the actress was overacting so much... but I still managed to connect with the story. Here my main problem was, that I actually wanted to strangle the character! Haha!