Skip to main content

MAN BOOKER PRIZE LONGLIST - The Testament of Jessie Lamb - Congratulations Jane Rogers

I first posted this review back in May for those experiencing deja vu. Jane Rogers is a tremendous novelist, never afraid to confront issues. She's also an inspirational teacher.  

In Jessie Lamb’s world there are no Thought Police or Republic of Gilead. Her comfortable suburb of Manchester is entirely recognisable. Jane Rogers' eighth novel makes a point of co-opting the ordinary, the everyday world of scrambled eggs, mum and dad’s arguments, college relationships and teenage loyalties. However, in Jessie’s world – a few months into the future – women have been infected by a virus known as maternal death syndrome (MDS). Once MDS is contracted, any woman who becomes pregnant develops a fatal form of CJD, dying within days. The human race must confront its demise.
The novel has echoes of The Handmaid’s Tale and Children Of Men, but it is the 360-degree realisation of 21st century community in the process of fracture, told in the voice of an assured, intelligent 16 year old that makes Jessie’s story so captivating. This is a nightmare in waiting; society still functions as the adult world looks to science for solutions. But for groups of young people like Jessie, science is the cause. Their search for answers drives them into the arms of extremist groups, each of whom offers a form of protest against a single element of societal breakdown.
As a parent, the novel resonates most powerfully with that moment you realise your own kids’ view of the world is fed by the complex reality of their own lives, entirely independent of your parental influence. The smart thing is to stand back and listen, however when Jessie makes a decision which could benefit humanity, but which her parents regard as a needless sacrifice, they cannot help but act on her behalf. The novel is at its most powerful handling the complex mix of young adult/parent relationships.
Much hangs on the reader’s relationship with Jessie as she fights to assert her independence, discovering her own sense of power to challenge adult conventions and certainties, particularly those of her geneticist father. She is not alone. Teenagers are increasingly drawn towards active protest; it is their world and their future adults have effectively destroyed.
Superficially, the most resonant aspect of The Testament Of Jessie Lamb might seem to be the fear of science getting out of control and creating a dystopian future for us all, but Jessie is such an engaging narrator that the novel offers far more than a pale ‘what if science screws up?’ scenario. The conclusion is both shocking and inevitable with power ultimately in Jessie’s hands.
The Testament Of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers is published by Sandstone Press.


Popular posts from this blog

PULP! THE CLASSICS - The Hound of the Baskervilles

You'll be familiar with the story - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's super sleuth Holmes goes down to the Moors in search of the legendary hound. The brilliantly inventive Moffatt and Gattiss BBC version notwithstanding, the story first found its way into the public imagination in serialised form in the Strand Magazine in 1901/02. It was the third of four Holmes novels written by Conan Doyle and stands the test of time as a great crime novel in its own right. 'Murder ... Mystery ... Walkies!' Now a re-published edition from Pulp! The Classics, an imprint of Oldcastle books, features a vivid retro pulp cover with artwork by David Mann, tongue in cheek taglines and  orange sprayed coloured page edges. Each book in the series re-prints the complete original text and The Hound of the Baskervilles is a great addition. Perfect for Holmes completists, crime fiction fans and  lovers of pulp art, it takes its place alongside The Great Gatsby, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Tess …

FACE VALUE: Northern Crime Short Story Winner/FRANK'S WILD YEARS: New Edition/TED LEWIS: Update

"From rural noir to urban terror, high concept drama to blunt force trauma, Moth Publishing presents its first collection of prize-winning short stories." 2015 is about to end with a result. My story Face Value is a winner in the inaugural Northern Crime Short Story Competition. With the winners' anthology released on Monday 7 December in paperback and E-book, it's a great way to sign off after a hard-working but not always the most productive of writing years. I'm especially pleased Face Value made the grade. This week also sees the publication of a new edition of Frank's Wild Years. I'm grateful to publisher, Caffeine Nights, for the opportunity to put right a few of the things which have bugged me since it was originally let loose on the world, and for continuing to show faith in the book. The altogether sharper Frank's Wild Years will be available online, in bookshops and at WH Smiths travel stores from 3 December. This year I made a conscious deci…

The Jack Carter novels by Ted Lewis - Reissued by Syndicate Books

It's been a long time coming, but Syndicate Books is about to re-publish the three Ted Lewis novels featuring Jack Carter. The first, originally published as Jack's Return Home in 1970, was later re-titled Carter, then Get Carter, in the wake of the 1971 film, adapted from Lewis's novel and directed by Mike Hodges. Notably, the film substituted Newcastle for Scunthorpe, Lewis's unnamed 'frontier town'. With Carter dead at the end of the movie, Lewis returned to his main character in 1974 and 1977 for the prequels Jack Carter's Law (retitled Jack Carter and the Law in the USA) and Jack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon. Syndicate has created a must-have package with great design and excellent layout. I was pleased to contribute a biographical afterword for Mafia Pigeon - the novel which, in essence, brings the story to the point at which Get Carter begins. Lewis's style - his prose is unremittingly bleak and brutal - has influenced generations of crime authors, …