XX by Angela Chadwick

Another read to assist in research for my dissertation (thanks to all the lovely folk who recommended it to me over on Twitter earlier in the summer.) I went into this expecting something entirely different to what I got……

The core of the book is the relationship between Rosie and Jules, a same-sex couple who want a baby of their own, and with the introduction of Ovum-to-Ovum technology, they are able to do so. What they don’t bank on is the huge media and political backlash. And it is this element of the book which is so absolutely terrifying.

But the terror isn’t done in an especially bloody way. It’s more subtle. It’s invasive and sneaky, and the narrative becomes tight and claustrophobic as these two women are villainised and hounded for wanting something so natural – a baby.

Events impact upon their relationship and their trust in those around them, and much of the novel deals with their emotions and the way in which they attempt to resolve their issues.

One of the overriding themes within this novel is the power of the media, and the way in which politicians use the media for their own political gain. Incredibly relevant to the here and now. It is terrifying how quickly and with how little effort a mob culture is whipped into being, with little to no thought being given to those in the firing line. With social media, it’s scary to see how a single Tweet or a post by someone with influence whips up a storm that quickly spirals. I’ve seen it happen, and it is worrying that these keyboard warriors are quick to attack, often without hearing the other side of the story, or without taking the time to consider the impact of their actions. Much of XX is born of that mentality.

Part of what surprised me with XX was just how domestic it was. With other novels within the dystopian genre that I’ve read recently, events have been national, or even global. Here, the action is close. The lens zooms in for an extreme close up on these two women, and it is all the more effective for it.

Another element of the novel which chimed, was despite the furore was the approach to impending parenthood from both Jules and Rosie. Throughout, both women have cause to examine the idea of becoming a mother, and what that means to them and I thought that this was so……normal. That at a time when they are faced with tirades of abuse shouting that what they are doing is wrong, that what they are doing isn’t natural, that impending parenthood is normalised in this way. Regardless of how you have children, parenthood is a huge responsibility and any person who says that they have never questioned their readiness or ability to be a parent, especially beforehand, I would confidently say, is a liar.

A clever dystopian novel, which feels much more here and now than any other I’ve read, making it even more disturbing than the ‘what could be’, this, in many respects is what we already live in. Highly recommended.

Blurb

When Rosie and Jules discover a groundbreaking clinical trial that enables two women to have a female baby, they jump at the chance to make history.

Fear-mongering politicians and right-wing movements are quick to latch on to the controversies surrounding Ovum-to-Ovum (o-o) technology and stoke the fears of the public. What will happen to the numbers of little boys born? Is there a sinister agenda to eradicate men?

In this toxic political climate, Jules and Rosie try to hide their baby from scrutiny. But when the news of Rosie’s pregnancy is leaked to the media, their relationship is put under a microscope and they’re forced to question the loyalty of those closest to them – and battle against a tirade of hate that threatens to split them apart…

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