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Booker International Longlist 2023 – Still Born

Still Born

Book 2 Still Born by Guadalupe Nettel Translated by Rosalind Harvey

Reviewed by Rachel & Tracy

Synopsis from Booker Prize website: Guadalupe Nettel’s gripping and insightful fourth novel explores one of life’s most consequential decisions – whether or not to have children.

Alina and Laura are independent and career-driven women in their mid-thirties, neither of whom have built their future around the prospect of a family. Laura has taken the drastic decision to be sterilised, but as time goes by Alina becomes drawn to the idea of becoming a mother.  

When complications arise in Alina’s pregnancy and Laura becomes attached to her neighbour’s son, both women are forced to reckon with the complexity of their emotions, in Nettel’s sensitive and surgically precise exploration of maternal ambivalence.

Rachel’s Thoughts:  Almost a year after reading this, I still think back to Still Born, and am so pleased it made the longlist. It’s a messy, complicated, and non-judgmental look at motherhood and non-motherhood and mothering, set against the backdrop of Mexico City, and a society which expects a woman to become a biological mother.

The writing feels very real – the main character talks like a close friend, while, when she tells Alina’s story it feels almost like a human-interest news report. Somehow it works to build a very affecting story without being manipulative or mawkish. Major content warnings for everything around pregnancies that don’t work out as expected.

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality 4/5
Character development 4/4
Plot development 4/4
Overall enjoyment.2/2
Total 18/20

Tracy’s Thoughts: Another book from the list with motherhood as part of the theme.

Still Born was easy to follow, but hard to stomach. This story of a woman watching as her best friend has a baby that wasn’t supposed to live for more than a few minutes, then proves the doctors wrong, is at times heart breaking and at times triumphant. Much like motherhood. 

I wouldn’t call this book enjoyable, but I would call it worth reading, and certainly list worthy. 

Writing quality: 4.5/5
Originality: 4/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development: 3.5/4
Overall enjoyment: 1.5/2
Total: 16.5/20

 Have you read this one? Let us know your thoughts.

Still Born 17.25
Whale 15.5

One Comment Post a comment
  1. I found this a riveting read, one that read like a Non-fiction account, especially Alina’s story. I loved it, the way their lives were upended in different ways by what they had thought as they set out in the beginning, the unpredictability of caring for a child and the different forms it can take, even Laura’s mother, who by the end reasserts her independence, letting go of her own fixed, yet old fashioned expectations of her daughter, they were perhaps more alike than they realised.


    May 8, 2023

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