Cover Image: Still Born

Still Born

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Member Reviews

This book cured my reading slump I’ve been this past couple of weeks. A really powerful and poignant study of motherhood, disability and feminism which I devoured in 2 days. It would be a 5* however I did think it felt a bit too factual and distant in places, which may be a translational issue, I am not sure, but I’d still really recommend this.
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Gently and softly told.

Nettel does not shy away from hard topics.  She enters them softly and leaves them softly but the impact remains.  She cradles several aspects of motherhood and so very gently weaves a hard story tackling:

becoming a mother and leaving freedom behind; 
not becoming a mother; 
dealing with a difficult child; 
preparing for the death of a child; 
dealing with depression while still taking care of your child; 
becoming a mother to another's child; 
accepting your mother when you become an adult.

Through all these Nettle weaves through showing different sides of the coin, showing the persons beneath, the 'mothers' and the 'children'.
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At the heart of this emotionally compelling novel is the dilemma faced today by many independent career women – whether or not to have children. Alina and Laura are close friends but each makes a different decision, and each has to face the consequences of that decision. Set in Mexico City but universally applicable, it’s a thoughtful and thought-provoking exploration of motherhood, insightful and empathetic, never predictable and sensitively written. It ended rather abruptly and I found that jarring, as up to that point it had been a solid 5* novel. However, that proviso apart, this is a book I highly recommend.
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Still Born is Guadalupe Nettel’s fourth novel, but it is the first one I have read. I will be seeking out more of Nettel’s work; I devoured this novel in little over a day. 

The book tells the story of two close friends, Laura and Alina, who are initially united in their belief that parenthood is to be avoided and that there is no worse fate than to become one of the hordes of ‘zombie-like mothers’ they see around them. 

The friends drift apart for a while as Laura concentrates on working on her thesis, and Alina settles into a relationship and domesticity with her partner Aurelio. When they meet again, Laura’s perspective remains set in stone, while Alina now wants more than anything a baby.

What follows is a complicated journey from pregnancy to new life, during which both Alina and Laura’s views on parenthood are tested to the extreme as life throws complications at them that they could never have envisaged. 

Alongside the complicated pregnancy storyline, Laura befriends her neighbour, a bereaved single mother struggling with her troubled son. Laura acknowledges her own fraught maternal instincts, and these encounters with her next-door neighbours further force her to question her conceptions of mothering.

Nettel handles all sides of the argument with delicacy and insight, with her writing being subtle, sharp, and with an almost omniscient clarity. Given that Laura narrates and Alina's narrative is in the third person, there’s a detachment to
the narrative that belies the depth of emotion in Nettel’s language and linguistic skill. 

This book is not an easy read and could be triggering for some. The decisions made are never straightforward. But this novel is vital in its emphasis on the right for people to make their own choices about their own bodies; after recent events in America, this feels more important than ever.
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I loved this book.

It was sad, it was fascinating and most importantly, it made me think.

Not at all what I expected which was part of why I loved it.

4 stars
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“Who has not plunged headlong into an irreconcilable love affair knowing it has no future, and clinging to a glimmer of
hope as flimsy as a blade of grass?”

Still Born is a hauntingly beautiful story about motherhood, life, and how we deal with the different circumstances we find ourselves in. 

Laura and Alina agree upon one thing: a woman does not need a child to function normally, a career is an equally important thing for a woman to have. Nevertheless, Alina starts to long for a child. What unfolds is a difficult yet poignant read. 

In Still Born, Guadalupe Nettel deals with motherhood and the female experience in a way that will be relatable to many. The way it challenges norms while it still feels incredibly real and humane is awe-inspiring. It’s a book I won’t forget anytime soon. 

After reading this book, I will absolutely pick up something else by Nettel. Her writing is fantastic, both exact and hard-hitting, and I can’t wait to read more of it. 

Thank you so much Netgalley for the copy!
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I first came to the work of Mexican writer Guadalupe Nettel through Bezoar, a collection of short stories as memorable as it is slender, filled with sharp, unsettling observations on the human condition. A brief encounter it may have been, but perhaps for that very reason I was intrigued to see how Nettel approaches longer fiction, this time in her fourth novel, Still Born, recently translated into English by Rosalind Harvey. The experience did not disappoint: Still Born is a deeply compelling novel, imbued with the same butterfly touch as Bezoar yet able to delve much further into complex questions around motherhood and friendship. Nettel once again displays her keen eye for human behaviour and a precise awareness of language, which finds expression in Rosalind Harvey’s meticulous translation.

[...]

Where Bezoar was laced with surrealist elements, it is the reality of Still Born that keeps us reading, forcing open the door to little-asked questions and providing space to confront issues that are often swept aside. Guadalupe Nettel has crafted an intimate portrait of several different women in a fashion that feels true to life, allowing as much space for ambivalence and ambiguity as she does for fierce love and heartbreak. A frank exploration of motherhood as both social concept and personal experience, Still Born is wise and multi-storyed, a novel framed within tight, lucid prose, yet infinitely generous in the expanse of what it offers.

[excerpted from the full review available on my blog]
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This book was unlike any I have read before. it was beautifully translated and I wish I could have read it in its original language, too. The storyline is so carefully crafted and then characters are so believable. The topic was very difficult (childlessness, serious child illness, pregnancy and loss), but it was handled so sensitively and in a way I have not seen any other author achieve. I would highly recommend but would add that the topics may be triggering for some people.
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Wow what a book. I'm sitting here wondering whether to have kids or not, sitting with pro and con lists. I found this book really interesting and I really could relate.
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I’m always excited to read novels that explore the decision of choosing to have children or not, this however fell a bit short for me. I found the narrator quite hard to read and judgemental. I also thought the writing was just okay.
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An impactful and sweet feminist novel about motherhood in many different forms. It's about the desire (or not) to become a mother, the love for your own child and the desire to care for somebody else's child. It is quite tough in places because, as the title somewhat suggests, it is partly about a gravely disabled newborn - I can imagine not everyone is in the mood for that but I thought the way it was done very respectful and not overly dramatic. I liked the friendships between the women in this book as well and the main character was almost an inspiration. It reads very easily (compliments to the translator) and felt very natural and gives loads to think about, so all in all highly recommended. 

4,5 

P.S.  it sure why the cover image on Netgalley is that of Annie Ernaux...
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This short book explored motherhood and the expectations and thought process around deciding whether pregnancy and being a parent is the right path for that person. 

If I had reviewed this book five years ago, I imagine I would have rated it lower as I would not have felt so attached to it. However I felt akin to both Laura and Alina despite them taking two very different paths in maternal development and this made me feel very immersed in the narrative. The writing was very prose-y but I enjoyed this - it reminded me slightly of Kazuo Ishiguro, with the writing flowing quietly and freely and hitting you hard at the end of those lengthy paragraphs.

I felt I actually wanted more than 200 pages - it felt like everything was wrapped up quite quickly in the final pages - but overall the atmosphere of the book was beautiful and I would love to read more of Nettel's work.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Ninety nine times out of one hundred, when I read an excellent book, I will devour it quickly racing through to the conclusion. However , every now and then a book comes along that I find myself slowly savouring  it, Still Born is one such book. I read this over two weeks, I found myself reading a line and going back and immediately rereading it. I'd read a chapter in bed at night and then lie there thinking about the characters and their lives.

A beautiful, thought provoking novel that explores one of lives biggest  decisions, to have children or not. The writing and indeed the translation, is wonderful. The words flow and meander and completely weaved their way into my head. I have spent more time thinking about this book, the characters and their lives than anything else over the last couple of weeks and the ending was so tender and satisfying. I will be recommending this far and wide and am going to order a print copy to reread and underline so many of the incredible quotes within.

I loved this. 

4.5-5 star
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I adored Still Born. Women who do not want children, who are not maternal, are so often left out of fiction or painted in a negative light. It was refreshing to see motherhood represented in so many ways.
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Nettel's storytelling is first-class. This is a compelling and highly emotional novel about the complexities of  motherhood. Told in spare yet powerful prose, it's a brilliant investigation into what it means to want it, to not want it - and why - and how both being a mother and being mothered are ever-shifting states, physically and psychologically. The ending, with its nods to one of the many clever narrative threads and philosophies that run through the book is particularly inspired. Highly recommend.
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It starts off slightly bizarre but you become drawn into the story very quickly. 

A heartbreaking story in places.
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I loved this, I don’t think I have connected with a book as much as this in a long time. Heart-breaking, so much real emotion,  and completely  thought-provoking that I am still thinking about this book and the questions it has raised in me, about me, this is wonderfully written and beautiful book. It just covers so much like how even if you choose to become a mum, how much is free choice , when society instills and almost brainwashes reproduction, motherhood and how it’s natural, I also loved how it focuses on loss and society’s  treatment of disability. I thought the ending was fantastic and symbolic of life itself,  we don’t get closure and again that left me thinking 

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a free copy for an honest opinion
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This is an elegant, thought-provoking take on motherhood - and the challenges of deciding whether or not to have a baby - the dilemma of wanting to be a mother but also be oneself and whether you can be both. 
Laura and Alina are independent, career-driven women who don’t want children - until one of them does. It tackles themes of birth,  family, friendship, responsibility and vulnerability and is sensitively written but also unflinching. 
Wise and deeply feminist, it’s written in a clear, compelling way - I found it moving, fascinating and it’s really stayed with me. I loved it - well worth reading.
Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC. All views are my own.
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“Just as someone who, without ever having
contemplated suicide, allows themselves to be seduced by the abyss from the top of a
skyscraper, I felt the lure of pregnancy.”

My favourite book so far this year. 

Beautifully insightful and timely, Still Born is the story of 2 career-driven, adventurous friends in their mid-30s, living in Mexico City. Laura chooses to be sterilised while Alina is desperate to become pregnant with her husband. Soon, both women find themselves in unexpectedly complex motherhood-dilemmas. 

Heart-gripping, real, and hugely thought-provoking, I find myself still staring into space trying to absorb the unexpected emotional whirlwinds that fall upon these women.

It really is a beautiful book. Wonderfully written (/translated) and researched, the facts about motherhood in nature, genetics and medical marvels all add to the addictive quality of how quickly you want to devour each page. It definitely hurts in places but it’s a life-affirming kind of pain.

Favourite quote:

“Who has not plunged headlong into an irreconcilable love affair knowing it has no future, and clinging to a glimmer of hope as flimsy as a blade of grass?”
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I'll start this book review off by saying that each book I read and review starts off with the full 5 stars and that I'm always hopeful that they will still be firmly in place by the time I finish reading.

I got this book for free from Net Galley with the publishers approval, in exchange for me putting up this honest review.

It's apparently 200 pages long and translated, so I'll try and remember that as I read.

Let's get reading!

Wow!  I've already read 10% of the book and haven't even thought about adding to this review yet... could this be a full 5 star book?  I certainly hope so!

This is a great book and I'm wondering what will happen as the months continue and afterwards too... will it all get too much or will the main characters maternal instincts start to kick in?

Are famous singers names (potentially being used without permission) something that would get you into legal hot water?  I know that song titles and lyrics can, but what about actual people please?  Either way, the author has used several of them and my hubby says that he doesn't think it's copyright/trademark infringement, so the star is staying in place right now, but it's looking wobbly 'cos of my uncertainty.

Ooooh!  Could that be the start of the main character changing her mind?  Considering it's so early in the book, I think it just might be and I'm seriously hoping I'm not wrong!

OMGosh!  What awful news for them both!  No spoilers, but this is gonna be a hearbreaking book by the looks of things!

The author is seriously pulling at my heartstrings now and the main character seems to be starting to change her mind ever so gradually too.  I'm only about a quarter of the way through, but I can feel the tears starting to prickle at the back of my eyes and my heart is being pulled in all directions already.  My initial thoughts on this book is that if you're looking for an emotionally heart-breaking read, you should definitely invest in this book.

Here comes the heartbreaking bit... my eyes are already welling up!

Oooh!  I'm glad I kept reading instead of going to bed lol  It's not such instantly heart-breaking news like I thought!

I'm up to "Part II.I" now, so I'm thinking now would be a good time to shuffle off to beddy-byes.

This is a surprising book that knows exactly how to twang my heart-strings, get me on the verge of tears, then release me with something positive.

I'm starting to see why the author has chosen the title too... I initially thought it was a translation blooper, but it's not.

More positivity where I didn't think there was any... this is an absolutely incredible book!

Nooooo!!!!  The author has used a famous fictional character, and a social media site, undoubtedly without permission, so like with other 5 star books I've read, it's now a 4 star book which is a huuuge disappointment.  Readability-wise it's still very much a 5 star book, but my sense of fair play is over-riding, just like with each of the other books too, so this is, very reluctantly, a 4 star book.

I like Marlene already.  She's got confidence and curiosity and wants only what is best for Ines and she's keeping the parents up to date every evening which is just how it should be in my opinion!

Oh yes, Marlene is definitely Ines' spokesperson and I'm starting to appreciate just how much she means to Alina especially.

OMG!  Poor boy!  I hope that the main character can get the boy the help and treatment he needs!

Wow.

I've just finished reading and while I've been stunned and surprised several times, there haven't been any tears.

I'm breathless and hoping for a sequel.
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