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The Testament of Jessie Lamb (2011)

by Jane Rogers

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3523158,239 (3.24)1 / 114
"A rogue virus that kills pregnant women has been let loose in the world, and nothing less than the survival of the human race is at stake. Some blame the scientists, others see the hand of God, and still others claim that human arrogance and destructiveness are reaping the punishment they deserve. Jessie Lamb is an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl living in extraordinary times. As her world collapses, her idealism and courage drive her toward the ultimate act of heroism. She wants her life to make a difference. But is Jessie heroic? Or is she, as her scientist father fears, impressionable, innocent, and incapable of understanding where her actions will lead?"--P. [4] of cover.… (more)
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» See also 114 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
I'm a little surprised at the accolades that this book has received; I found it in the new book section of my public library, and thought it was misfiled YA apocalyptic fiction. I was interested to read at the beginning of the story that the disease which was attacking the population was a modification of Creutzfield-Jakob, which is part of the family of prion diseases that have fascinated me for a long time, but there was not much further discussion about it, since Jessie did not have much firsthand contact with anyone with the disease. Overall, I though the book was styled much more like a young adult novel than an adult science fiction novel. Perhaps the faulty genre is why I felt it rated lower than it might have otherwise. ( )
  resoundingjoy | Jan 1, 2021 |
Not necessarily a great book, but I liked it quite a bit better than I expected to. Tonally, very reminiscent of Never Let Me Go (although I thought that was a better book). I don't expect to see it on the Booker shortlist, but I think it earned its place on the longlist. Recommended for fans of dystopian fiction. Especially if you liked The Handmaid's Tale. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
Not necessarily a great book, but I liked it quite a bit better than I expected to. Tonally, very reminiscent of Never Let Me Go (although I thought that was a better book). I don't expect to see it on the Booker shortlist, but I think it earned its place on the longlist. Recommended for fans of dystopian fiction. Especially if you liked The Handmaid's Tale. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
A biologically engineered virus has infected the women of the world that brings death to any who become pregnant. The future of humanity is at stake. Will there even be a future? That is what the people of the world have to wrestle with in The Testament of Jessie Lamb.

Yet as the title implies, this is a personal story, the account of one 16-year-old. The book is speculative fiction the way I like, about the people who must react to their extraordinary circumstances, rather than filled with techno-babble as to the specifics that brought them there.

Jessie is like many 16-year-olds I've known, her idealism untouched by cynicism, motivated by a drive to have an impact on the world, with a hope that just by dint of goodwill and determination she will be able to transform all. Hers is a great portrayal of adolescent psychology. The really complex characters in the book, however, are her parents, who clearly love their daughter but resort to some frankly horrifying tactics to deter Jessie from following through on a major decision she makes to incarnate her ideals.

Naturally, since the story is told from Jessie's point-of-view, all sympathy is with her. She is very persuasive in making the case for her decision. But given the major consequences her decision will have, I have to question exactly how I myself would react if she were my 16-year-old daughter. ( )
  kvrfan | Aug 19, 2016 |
I would probably have categorized this book as young adult if it were not shortlisted for the Booker Prize and winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award. I am not sure, though, that it deserved those accolades.

The book is set in near future England and is a counterpoint to The Children of Men by P.D. James. In this scenario, every woman who gets pregnant dies of a terrible bio-engineered disease. Jessie, the teenage protagonist, may be a witness to the end of the human race, as procreation basically comes to a halt. Jessie tells the story in a sort of diary; when the book opens, she is being held prisoner by an unknown person for an unknown reason who has asked her to write her "testament."

Society is unraveling, although not as drastically as in The Children of Men. For me, this was the most unbelievable aspect of the story. (Some spoilers ahead.) Gender relations seem to completely break down when the possibility of reproduction is removed. Young men eschew relationships to form gangs, turn homosexual, and spit on women. Huh? This development seems to completely discount the strong emotional bonds that can form between men and women by asserting that the only reason for the sexes to relate to one another is to produce offspring. I think this is trying to be a feminist novel--women move in together and form protest groups--but they come across as irrational and man-hating. I just didn't think this aspect of the book was believable or appropriately complex, which somewhat spoiled the rest of the story for me.

Jessie, as her name implies, come to think of herself as a sacrifice, which I also found problematic. However, this was more believable to me, in the context of the character. I agreed with pretty much every other character that her sacrifice was unnecessary and ill-conceived, but it seemed like something that a teen in the throes of severe angst would do. However, I'm not sure that this was the perspective the author wanted me to take. I think we are supposed to think of Jessie as heroic, maybe even Christ-like (again, the name). I won't even get into the fact that a rudimentary examination of the underlying science makes the whole scheme untenable.

I'm not totally panning this book. The writing is decent, Jessie's character is well developed, and the conceit is intriguing. However, I do think we've seen this kind of thing done before, and done much better. I just get the sense that the author wrote this without truly thinking it through, or without building in the layers of complexity necessary to keep the overarching theme from seeming muddled and without real impact. ( )
1 vote sturlington | Dec 15, 2015 |
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Epigraph
'Another kind of light and life

Are to be mine...'

Iphigenia at Aulis, Euripedes
Dedication
For Wendy
First words
The house is very quiet now he's gone.
Quotations
You can't ever unknow things one you've heard them. They become part of you, they work inside you like yeast in the dough Sal and I made one weekend. You leave it on a board with a tea-towel over it, and it starts rising and changing its shape. It swells until it's become something else altogether.
To do something straightforward, where there would be no tangled argument and no compromise. Something that would make a difference to the world. Something it was within my power to do without having to rely on anyone else.
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"A rogue virus that kills pregnant women has been let loose in the world, and nothing less than the survival of the human race is at stake. Some blame the scientists, others see the hand of God, and still others claim that human arrogance and destructiveness are reaping the punishment they deserve. Jessie Lamb is an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl living in extraordinary times. As her world collapses, her idealism and courage drive her toward the ultimate act of heroism. She wants her life to make a difference. But is Jessie heroic? Or is she, as her scientist father fears, impressionable, innocent, and incapable of understanding where her actions will lead?"--P. [4] of cover.

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(from the back of the book)  Some blame the scientists, others see the hand of God, and still others claim that human arrogance and destructiveness are reaping the punishment they deserve.  Jessie Lamb is an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl living in extraordinary times.  As her world collapses, her idealism and courage drive her toward the ultimate act of heroism.  She wants her life to make a difference.  But is Jessie heroic?  Or is she, as her scientist father fears, impressionable, innocent, and incapable of understanding where her actions lead?

Set in a world irreparably altered by an act of biological terrorism, The Testament of Jessie Lamb explores a young woman's struggle to become independent of her parents.  As the certainties of her childhood are ripped apart, Jessie begins to question her parents' attitudes, their behavior, and the very world they bequeathed her.
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