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The Testament of Jessie Lamb: A Novel Paperback – May 15, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (May 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062130803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062130808
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #816,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Rogers, the author of Mr. Wroe’s Virgins (1999), offers up a powerful dystopian novel in which pregnancy has become a death sentence. Terrorists have concocted a deadly virus known as MDS, which breaks down the proteins in the brains of pregnant women, killing them long before they are ready to deliver. Sixteen-year-old Jessie Lamb is the daughter of a scientist who is looking for a cure for MDS. She’s also a budding activist, flirting with youth groups that have sprung up in the face of this worldwide disaster. Jessie watches as her best friend, Sal, joins a fervent feminist group while her crush, Baz, gets involved with an increasingly radical animal-rights faction. Both groups are polarized when scientists develop a new program that might allow women to carry babies to term, at the cost of their own lives. But Jessie feels like this could be her way to make a difference, much to her parents’ horror. Long-listed for the Booker Prize, Rogers’ mesmerizing tale is frighteningly timely and bound to spark rich book-club discussions. --Kristine Huntley

Review

“The novel does not set up an elaborate apocalypse, but astringently strips away the smears hiding the apocalypses we really face. Like Jessie’s, it is a small, calm voice of reason in a nonsensical world.” (The Independent)

“Jane Rogers has captured Jessie’s voice brilliantly, alternating a teenager’s solipsism with a growing awareness of the wider world. Jessie’s self-conviction is both admirable and infuriating, and the reader is torn between her clear, unequivocal conclusions and the intricate, heartfelt compromises of her parents.” (Times Literary Supplement (London))

“A powerful dystopian novel…Long-listed for the Booker Prize, Rogers’ mesmerizing tale is frighteningly timely and bound to spark rich book-club discussions.” (Booklist)

“Thought-provoking, smart, real, disturbing, and well-written...A compelling page-turner of a novel.” (Popmatters)

“Echoes of Kazuo Ishiguro’s stealthy novel Never Let Me Go abound, but Rogers works with a more populist tool kit, nailing the tempestuous inner conflicts of a young woman as she discerns the full measure of selfishness required to be selfless.” (New York Times Book Review)

“Beautifully and convincingly written, Jessie’s testament for posterity is truly moving, haunting…a rich, heavy read, full of provocative questions…” (Kirkus Reviews)

More About the Author

Jane Rogers has published eight novels, written original television and radio drama, and has adapted work (her own and others') for radio and TV. Her novels include MR. WROE'S VIRGINS, ISLAND, THE VOYAGE HOME, and most recently, THE TESTAMENT OF JESSIE LAMB, which made the 13-title long list for the 2011 Booker Prize. She has won the Somerset Maugham Award, the Writers' Guild Best Fiction Book, has been a finalist for the Guardian Fiction Prize, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She is Professor of Writing at Sheffield Hallam University, and lives near Manchester in the north of England.

Customer Reviews

No real resolution is provided.
Welshie39
Although the second half of the book was a bit tedious and veered off path for me, it is still completely worth the read.
Jaime H.
It's a great read--read it cover to cover in one day when I had time to devote to a relatively short book.
JHammons

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ripple on August 30, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
The subject matter of "The Testament of Jessie Lamb" ensures that this is not a comfortable read. Set in the near future, Rogers has imagined a truly terrifying virus that affects pregnant women, known as Maternal Death Syndrome or MDS. Everyone carries this illness but the effects, a cross between AIDS and CJD, ensure that all pregnant mothers will die - without exception. Scientists have found a way to save some of the unborn children, but only by placing their mothers in a chemically induced coma from which they won't recover. Now though, there scientists have also discovered a way of immunising frozen, pre-MDS embryos which, if they can be placed in a willing volunteer, may ultimately allow the survival of the human race. However, the volunteers need to be under 16˝ or the likely success rates are too low. Step forward one Jessie Lamb.

The Booker longlist can be relied on to throw up at least one novel on a controversial subject. Last year it was "The Slap". This year it's this novel. There's no doubt it asks awkward and unsettling questions about a variety of issues including the age at which people can take informed decisions, the rights and wrongs of scientific research and animal testing and the right anyone has to chose their own death. There are no easy answers to any of these questions of course.

As you might infer from the title, the story is written from a first person narrative by Jessie. Often with first person narratives it's difficult to get a true steer on the character herself. Effectively she's dealing with the usual teen dramas of arguing parents, failed love and general `what's the point of me?' stuff. She's into environmentalism and vegetarianism, all in the idealistic way of many of her age.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jaime H. on June 9, 2012
Format: Paperback
The Testament of Jessie Lamb gives us a dystopian-esque world that feels very real and palpable that it seems a nearly possible scenario. A virus has been manufactured and released across the world by an unknown source, targeting pregnant women. While the virus lies dormant in everyone, it is activated when a woman becomes pregnant, leading to her imminent death. Thus, the result being eventual, and fairly rapid, extinction of humans.
While scientists have extensively researched the virus, the death toll rises and time is running out. There are many controversial experiments being discussed and carried out, including the `Sleeping Beauty' program, in which young women are implanted or become pregnant naturally and are then put to sleep for the duration of the pregnancy- the result being their death upon birthing the child, thus making them living incubators. However, the babies are able to be given a vaccine that will make them immune to the virus, ensuring they will be able to populate later in life.
Jessie Lamb is a quiet yet strong-willed young woman living in a world that is on the edge of collapse. The most interesting and engrossing thing about this book is the resolute calmness this leading lady is able to convey, even when everything around her is chaotic. It is almost as if Jessie is the eye of a storm, bringing reprieve from the destruction of her world and causing the reader to not be fearful, but rather really see what is going on. Her voice also conveys a sadness, indicating a certain resignation that comes with knowing everything is a mess, but a hopefulness that any small act may lead to change. While she is fighting for survival, she succumbs to a numbness when dealing with the violence around her.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michael White on July 13, 2012
Format: Paperback
The idea behind this book has potential - a world-wide virus that kills all pregnant women is just one more catastrophe to add to our 21st century list of woes that include global warming, terrorism, exploitation of animals and the environment, etc. 16-year-old Jessie Lamb, on the cusp of adulthood, is tired of feeling helpless about the messed up world of adults, and she want to take action in a way that will actually make a difference. A chance to do something decisive comes her way - a chance to make her own decision, to do something to make this world better, but at the cost of her life. Her parents feel, as any sane parent would, that she's throwing her life away in a fit of teenage drama, making a decision that she won't even live to regret later.

The story has all of the typical themes of teenage angst and parental tension, placed in a dramatic, mildly dystopic setting. But for the most part the characters are shallow caricatures of various extreme views. The most interesting relationship in the book is between Jessie and her father, but the tensions in that relationship are made to just poof away in an extremely absurd ending, during which a weakened 16-year old Jessie can somehow get her father, a healthy, middle aged man who is no push-over, to lock himself up while she escapes to her death.

I wanted to like this book, but the unintentionally implausible plotting and the juvenile characterization turned me off, and I finished the book in disgust. The author says she was inspired in part by Philip Roth's great novel of father-daughter tension, American Pastoral - go read that much better book instead of this one.
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