“In the wake of a fever that decimated the earth’s population – killing women and children and making childbirth deadly for the mother and infant – the midwife must pick her way through the bones of the world she once knew to find her place in this dangerous new one. Gone are the pillars of civilisation. All that remans is power – and the strong who possess it.
A few women like her survived, though they are scare. Even fewer are safe from the clans of men, who, driven by fear, seek to control those remaining. To preserve her freedom, she dons men’s clothing, goes by false names, and avoids as many people as possible. But as the world continues to grapple with its terrible circumstances, she’ll discover a role greater than chasing a pale imitation of independence. After all, if humanity is to be reborn someone must be its guide”
Frankly this book had me hooked from page 1 and once I’d picked it up I really struggled to put it down again. I inhaled it in a day and I loved it. I love an apocalyptic book, a good one of course, but it doesn’t take a lot to win me over. There were moments of this book which reminded me of a couple of others I had read but ultimately I really enjoyed the writing and the story was good. The characters you meet along the way are interesting and diverse. The events can be shocking, early on there is an attempt rape that ends in the unnamed midwife killing her attacker. But the events would be shocking at the end of the world as we know it. With a breakdown of society the term survival of the fittest comes very much to the fore as people would battle for the limited resources. In this case the limited resources are women. The infection has targeted women and babies and suddenly there are very few left. The unnamed midwife takes an early decision to disguise herself as a man which proves a good decision without doubt.
The book is set in San Francisco initially where the unnamed midwife is a nurse in a big hospital when the infection starts. She gets ill and everyone around her thinks that she will die. Days or weeks later she wakes up from her stupor to find the world empty of all that she knew. San Francisco is a ghost town, or so it appears. Quickly she is attacked in her own bed which forces her hand and she starts wandering, meeting dejected survivors as she walks. Some help her, some want to join her and some want to kill her. She goes in the opposite direction to many who are heading South, where she has come from, as she fears South is a trap. Self sufficiency is an absolute must as are difficult decisions. She is often incredibly lonely but then finds the company of people irritating.
I didn’t find any of the story difficult but I would say that there were some extreme events. Frankly I think they were well told, not sensationalised, and dealt with quite factually. Events that talk about the base human requirements or survival and sex. I am most definitely not one for gratuitous sex scenes (The Chalk Man contained a totally unnecessary and distasteful episode) but I found the sex scenes in this book were pretty much what I think would have happened. But. Some people might find some of the events described difficult to read. Also, quite obviously, there are some difficult descriptions of child birth. For years after the infection no babies are born that survive and in the main the mother dies in childbirth along with her child. And the unnamed midwife is involved in a couple of these births. Again I didn’t find the descriptions gratuitous but they were not pleasant.
I thought that this book was utterly tremendous. If you like apocalyptic fiction then this book should most definitely feature in your upcoming reads.