Sunday, 3 July 2016

Review - Baby X by Rebecca Ann Smith

I read this book in one day, something that rarely happens these days. I was gripped from the first chapter and wanted/needed to find out what happened to Alex and Baby X.

I struggled to decide which genre I though Baby X fitted into. There are many elements of thrillers in it but it is so much more than that. It is the most thought provoking book I have read for a long time. I found myself pondering the themes in the book long after I closed it. There is a strong scientific thread running through the novel but as a non scientist I never felt that I didn't understand what was going on. I cannot speak about the accuracy of the science in the book but it seemed believable to me. I was forced to confront my thoughts about motherhood, artificial fertility and scientific ethics. These are serious and weighty themes so please don't think that this is a heavy tome; it has serious themes but it is a lively, lovely read. I considered what I think a mother is - is it only the biological mother, someone genetically linked to a child, or is motherhood more complex than that? I also wondered how far I thought science and technology should be part of  the process of bringing a child into the world - I was lucky in that I conceived my son naturally; but how would I have felt if I needed intervention? How far would I have been prepared to go to have the child we both wanted? But I also enjoyed some stunning writing about motherhood. Mother's Milk Books who published Baby X are concerned with all aspects of motherhood, especially breastfeeding, so was a perfect fit with this story. The descriptions of looking after a newborn and experience's of breastfeeding brought back wonderful memories of my son's first weeks and months. I especially loved the description of Baby X swooning after a feed - so vivid and exactly how I son behaved.   

The story follows the narrative of three women - Alex, the research scientist developing the Artificial Uterus technology; Karen, a woman with a history of miscarriage and failed IVF; and Dolly, a research assistant working closely with Alex. The story of Baby X is told through their interactions with him and their involvement in his short life. My feelings about these women changed as their narrative arcs played out. Alex was the most complex in that we first meet her towards the end of her narrative arc. The Alex at the start of her narrative is a rather cold, austere scientist and I found her difficult to like. However as her story unfolds I warmed to her considerably and was really rooting for her to get her happy ending. Karen was immediately a sympathetic character; it would be a hard hearted reader who didn't feel for her as she went through multiple failed pregnancies. She grew as a character towards the end of her narrative arc and became a stronger woman because of her experiences. Dolly seemed to me to be a little light relief among the serious characters. She's younger, more free spirited and a little naive. Her actions help to drive the narrative and she is pivotal in bringing the story to a satisfactory conclusion. I was rather torn at the end as I wanted two endings but was only allowed one. The very end of the novel brought tears to my eyes with its touching description of the newborn Baby X, beautifully written from a mother's viewpoint. 

I look forward to passing this book on to my sister. I think she will enjoy it and get as much from it as I have. I also hope that she will pass it on to a friend and it will begin a journey, enlightening and entertaining many other readers. A stunning debut from Becky, I look forward to reading more from her in the future.


  1. I started reading last night and ploughed through five chapters, which is unheard of for me as I usually fall asleep after two pages. Really impressed so far!