by Joanna Kavenna - £7.99 Faber and Faber (2011)
paperback ISBN 13: 9780571245185 | ISBN 10: 0571245188
In Vienna, in 1865, Ignaz Semmelweis has been hounded into a lunatic asylum, ridiculed for his claim that doctorsí unwashed hands are the root cause of childbed fever. The deaths of thousands of mothers are on his conscience and his dreams are filled with blood.
In 2153, humans are birthed and raised in breeding centres, nurtured by strangers and deprived of familial love. Miraculously, a woman conceives, and Prisoner 730004 stands trial for concealing it.
In London in 2009, Michael Stone's novel about Semmelweis has been published, after years of rejection. But while Michael absorbs his disconcerting success, his estranged mother is dying and asks to see him again.
As Michael vacillates, Brigid Hayes, exhausted and uncertain whether she can endure the trials ahead, begins the labour of her second child.
Through the interwoven stories of these four characters, The Birth of Love explores the intense, conflicting emotions of motherhood as few contemporary novels have dared to do. A beautifully constructed and immensely powerful work, it is also a story of rebellion, isolation and the damage done by rigid ideologies. It confirms Joanna Kavenna, winner of the Orange New Writers Award for Inglorious, as one of the most ambitious and talented authors writing today.
(Price & availability last checked: March 2019)