Book Review: The Growing Season by Helen Sedgwick


A (very) brief plot overview

Anyone can have a baby thanks to the intervention of the FullLife pouch, a device that grows a baby so a woman doesn’t have to and can be worn by both men and women. Hailed as a revolution in gender equality, the pouch is trusted and celebrated by society, but something strange is happening at FullLife, something that Eva and her ex Piotr are determined to find out…

What’s good about it?

I LOVED this book. It talked about so many interesting things – gender equality, sexism, science, nature VS nurture, progress and the role of women to name just a few. It was topical, had me hooked and made me question my own viewpoint. Even when I had finished it, I was still thinking about my take on what I had read, questioning myself and challenging ideas that perhaps I once held. I would recommend this book to anyone, but especially to anyone who identifies them self as a feminist because it really makes you think about your feminism.

The novel is told from the perspectives of many characters – the inventor of the FullLife pouch, a scientist working at FullLife, the first woman to have a baby using the pouch, a journalist, the current head of FullLife and more. The mix of narrative voices is essential as it helps build up the many perspectives surrounding the use of the pouch, a sentiment that mirrors how the pouch would be received in reality. For something that would allow people to never miscarry, there would be a lot of support, but for something that takes away the role of the mother there would also be a lot of mistrust. Writing from so many perspectives shows all sides of the debate, allowing you to really question where you stand in it.

This novel reminds me of a Margaret Atwood, dystopian-but-so-close-to-reality-that-it’s-scary kind of novel. It’s set in the ‘real world’ and talks about things like privatisation, wealth and gender inequality – all current debates. In The Growing Season, the NHS is gone, replaced by private clinics like FullLife that have essentially eradicated the idea of natural births, claiming that the FullLife pouch offers a no risk pregnancy. Secondhand pouches are sold on the black market for those unable to afford the treatment firsthand. Abortion rates are lower because you can donate your fertilised embryo to FullLife so that they can grow the baby in a pouch for someone else to adopt. Births are scheduled to the day, meaning that people can work up until their baby is born. The pouch is made out to be revolutionary and something that changes the world for the better. I can imagine that if the pouch were real, it would be received in reality just as it had been in the book. Yet the book tells us of three generations down the line and the problems that have arisen from solely believing the headlines. I like that this book is almost telling us just slow down and not blindly run off into fantasy land with all the new advances we have. Some things are great, yes, but we also need to remind ourselves of the things that came before, the things that matter and have always mattered.

The ending of this book is brilliant. Not only are you happy for every character that you became emotionally invested in, but for a book that keeps you on your toes and questioning yourself throughout, the ambiguity of the ending is fitting. This book doesn’t tell us to listen to science or ignore it, that nature or nurture wins, but it does tell us that there are changes that will happen, that there are questions we need to ask, that there are values we should not lose. It’s ending is incredibly poignant and beautifully written.

What’s not so good?

This book is a little slow to start simply because there is so much back story that needs to be built up before the book can really get going. Just persist with the first quarter of the book – I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Rate Me: 10/10. This book is brilliant… please can someone else read it so I have someone to talk about it with?!

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