Book Review – Quiet by Susan Cain

quietI’ve just finished reading Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I’ve been reading it for a month which I know is a long time to be reading one book but it made me think so much I kept having to stop and reflect. It’s so interesting!

I was drawn to the book as I’ve long classified myself as an introvert. I’m someone who needs time alone to re-charge my batteries, who prefers socialising one-on-one or in small groups (rather than big parties), who can feel overwhelmed if there is too much stimulus – too many loud noises, different demands on my attention, or a new or changing environment. I like reading and writing and drawing and thinking. I need time to reflect. I want to really get to know people and am utterly frustrated by (and useless at) small talk. These are all classic introvert traits.

Despite being aware of all this upfront, I still found the book eye-opening. Cain has done so much research and explores the extent to which western society has promoted the ‘extrovert ideal’ and has, over the last century, set itself up in a way that often undervalues the many different strengths that introverts have, making it more difficult for them to thrive. It sets out to redress the balance proving what this group – one third to one half of people – have historically done for society and looking at ways in which we can support rather than undermine them now and with our next generation.

Having read the blurb on the back I thought it was going to be a rather one-sided book and yes, as an introvert, you do read it thinking ‘blimey, we’re awesome, hooray for us!’ but nevertheless, the author makes a case for the necessity for both introverts and extroverts in society. Extroverts bring us boldness, risk-taking, the ability to bring people together, to socialise on a large scale, to inspire, to enthuse and excite. They love being surrounded by others and thrive on the energy of groups. Who hasn’t been drawn to an extrovert’s warmth, charisma and social ease?! I know I have!

But introverts, ah, introverts, they bring so much to the table – quiet courage, fortitude, resolve, creativity, reflective intelligence and an ability to form deep bonds with others, to inspire and guide through connection and understanding. Introverts populate the arts and have been responsible for amazing scientific break-throughs. Who hasn’t been drawn to an introvert’s passion, dedication, or desire to forge a meaningful relationship? I really, really have!

Cain is American and it sounds like the ‘extrovert ideal’ is even stronger there than it is here in the UK, with extroversion as the desirable expectation, introverted qualities often frowned upon and with schools and businesses set up in ways which benefit the former at the expense of the latter. But still, a lot rang true for this country too. Open plan offices? No good for introverts who need time on their own to think, reflect and plan. Lots of group work in schools and an expectation of speaking out in front of the class? Exhausting and overwhelming for introverted kids who function much better on their own or with one or two others, and for many of whom, speaking out is terrifying.

The book looks at ways to bring out the best in introverted children and how to understand ourselves as introverted adults. It shows how understanding yourself can help you deal with all sorts of situations. It explores solutions for possible stumbling blocks in introvert/extrovert relationships and also makes clear that there are various different aspects to personality and that shyness and introversion, though they often go together, do not have to. Oh, and the myth that introverts are ‘antisocial’ is kicked to the curb. Yes, introverts don’t require lots of social interaction the way extroverts do but human connection is another thing entirely. Introverts love to talk meaningfully and really get to know people.

I didn’t identify with all the points Cain makes about introversion (to the extent that I’m honestly wondering if I’m actually an ambivert – yes, really, it’s a thing). I think I’m rather emotionally upfront and feisty and not enough of a ‘delicate orchid’ (yes, that term is really used.. hmmm) to truly fit the bill. I also think I have more need for social contact than the classic introvert Cain describes – one of my groups of friends refers to me as their ‘social secretary’ because I’m so keen to get us all together (I love them, so who can blame me?!) and I’m forever texting and emailing friends, arranging to see people and making time for my besties. There was also a bit in the book about conflict within romantic relationships which was all about introverts avoiding arguments and not really saying what they felt and I was like, ‘difficulty expressing emotion?! Er, haha, no that’s not me at all!’ Let’s just say I burn hot!

But then again, as Cain states, you’re highly unlikely have all the traits of a specific category. We all differ and there’s no need place ourselves in a category and let it define all our actions and expectations forevermore. I think like many things in life, it’s a spectrum and you can have some attributes and not others. Also, we all have to be free to feel and react differently in different situations. Cain discusses the possibility of adopting an ‘extroverted persona’ to get through certain tasks and I can well imagine this persona becoming a familiar part of yourself if well used enough. For me at least, the book is less about ultimate classification and more about gaining a better understanding of ourselves and our fellow human beings.

There’s so much in this book, I’m just skimming the surface here and all I can really do is recommend you read it for yourself. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert there’s lots to learn. If you’ve never understood certain aspects of your personality or your relationships with others it could be massively eye-opening – life changing, even – and it’s very interesting to read as a parent too.

I’ll finish with a quote from the book:

“The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk.”

Quiet might just help you find your light… and let yourself shine.

moving on

I woke up this morning itching to write about yesterday. I can’t let it go by unmarked, I thought. I have to put the feelings somewhere.
clouds and sunshine

You see, yesterday was my nine-year-old son’s last ever day of first school. Yes, my eldest little thinker and feeler (and blimey is he both!) has left behind the place he’s spent a huge chunk of the last six years. The place where, despite its ups and downs (he managed to start the school just as it went through possibly the most tumultuous period in its history!) he has felt nurtured and appreciated and above all, happy.

And this makes me feel… I’m not sure… in many ways happy, because he’s definitely ready to move on, but also kind of sad, because it’s the end of an era, and mostly just plain old nostalgic. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that my baby is not a baby anymore. And yes, I know, I KNOW he hasn’t been a baby for flippin’ years, I mean, he’s all whippet-slim and clear-eyed and angular and asking me questions about politics and what I think he should do about classroom dynamics and relationships between his peers. What baby is like that? Yep, he’s a big boy and I want him to be a big boy but, shit, sometimes it feels like yesterday that he lay newly born and softly warm and wriggly on my chest and I said ‘it’s a baby!’ in amazement and looked at my husband and we cried and laughed and… you know… felt that huge surge of wonder and love that changes everything forever.

But it’s been nine years. And he’s growing up.

We had a picnic on the playing fields after school yesterday – a get-together of parents and kids from my son’s year and all their siblings too. It was baking hot so we adults sat in the shade of the trees as the kids dashed around madly, occasionally rushing up to where we were sprawled to stuff their faces with crisps before bounding off again. They signed each other’s T-shirts, did each other’s hair and spoke in their funny language of year-four-isms that I normally find maddening but which yesterday sounded almost, ALMOST endearing.

I chatted with some of my friends and fellow parents (always lovely) and, though I did wonder afterwards if I should have made more of an effort to talk to everyone, really I was just content to observe. I enjoyed looking out from under the shade of the trees that line the yard where my son and I first stepped six years ago, at the people who I’ve walked alongside these past years. Some I’ve come to know really well, others I barely know at all and yet these are the faces that have lined every school play, every assembly, every fete, every classroom activity, every, well, everything school-related for more than half a decade. Side-by-side we’ve watched our chubby-faced three-year-olds evolve into lean-limbed feisty, eloquent nine-year olds.

Look how far we’ve come, I thought as I gazed at the buzz of life before me. Look what we’ve createdLook how much happiness can be found right here. 

Sometimes words aren’t necessary.

Sometimes just being is enough.

And then the fun began...

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What I’m Writing – Week eighty-six

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Welcome to week eighty-six of What I’m Writing! Thank you to everyone who linked up last week – I enjoyed reading your posts, as always. I loved Alice’s post about reading and writing fact versus fiction (which do you prefer?) and could empathise with Jo who was struggling with conflicting advice – sometimes it’s hard to know who to listen to! Meanwhile, over in the creative writing department, Tracey shared the latest instalment of her story – very mysterious! For more fabulous posts do pop over and have a read of last week’s link up.

*** Before I lose your attention to the linky bit at the end of the post –  a quick announcement. I’ve decided this is going to be the last ‘What I’m Writing’ until September. My boys break up from school tomorrow and summer tends to be pretty full-on. I want to have time for them and for my friends and to fit in some drawing and writing too! I may blog a bit but I’m going to release myself from any sort of schedule. I know many of you feel the same way and are doing something similar. The linky will be back on Tuesday 6th September.***

If you’re new here (welcome!) you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short(er) version is I’m a writer who loves blogging about my writing process and reading about those of others. This linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through.

I’ve also set up a private group on Facebook that all linkers are welcome to join. It’s somewhere we can share work and have a chat about all things writerly (and whatever else we fancy really). It’s a ‘secret group’ which means you’ll need an invitation to join so once you’ve linked up just let me know if you want me to send an invite.

If you’d like to join in you’re very welcome! There are just a few suggestions for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use my badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to my blog. I will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet me a link to your post @writingbubble then I will RT.

Please link up below – just click on the blue button that says ‘add your link’ and follow the instructions. I look forward to reading your posts. :)

Wishing you all a wonderful summer!

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bedside books

As much as I love my Kindle (it’s revolutionised my reading!), I don’t think anything can really replace having actual, real books to look at, hold and and lose yourself in. I love the sight of bookcases in houses and our sitting room bookcase, which is loaded with wedding presents (we asked for books that meant something to the giver :) ), makes me really happy. I also love having a pile of books on my bedside table and, given it’s about to be the summer holidays and you might be looking for book suggestions, I thought I’d share what’s currently sitting there with you. Maybe you can share what you’re reading with me too?

book pile

Nice looking stack, hey? Here we go – top to bottom:

The Space Between – Poems by Jonathan Barnes

This is a book of my Dad’s poetry. He’s a talented poet and I’m not at all biased in saying that! Oh, ok, I’m biased but I am also right. He has a gentle but powerful way with words. He gets to the truth of things the way all good poets do – his words always speak to me. Last night one of the poems in this collection made me cry. It’s a funny feeling reading the poetry of someone you know so well – you see more of their heart, mind and soul than you otherwise would, but at the same time it’s very much recognisably them too. Anyway, I love having poetry on my bedside table.

Moonfleet – by J Meade Falkner

This is an adventure story for kids (about pirates and smuggling), first published in 1898. It used to be hugely popular and has been made into a film and been adapted for TV and radio several times over the last sixty-odd years. My mum gave it to me recently for my eldest son (who’s just turned nine) to read. She said it was fantastic, that I should read it too and that it has in it the best chapter of any book she’s ever read. I’m hoping to read it soon!

Yes Please – by Amy Poehler

As a huge fan of the hilarious Parks and Recreation (in which she stars), I’ve been really enjoying reading Amy Poehler’s autobiography. She’s a really smart, funny and inspirational woman and it’s the sort of book where you’re constantly thinking ‘oh that’s a great quote!’ (check out this list for examples). I loved the preface where she describes her experience of writing the book (I know – the preface – you could say she had me at ‘hello’) and how hard it was, and not to believe that writing is anything but hard:

“Even I have lied about writing. I have told people that writing this book has been like brushing away dirt from a fossil. What a load of shit. It has been like hacking away at a freezer with a screwdriver.”

Yes, I know that hacking feeling! She’s very straightforward about it, saying that you just have to write, despite the other draws on your time and attention, and despite the voice of self doubt, because “Writing the book is about writing the book”.

The War of Art – by Steven Pressfield

My brother gave me this book for Christmas. It’s all about breaking through blocks and getting your work created. I read the first sections at the start of the year and was all, “Yes! I ‘m going to do this thing! Come on!” and I had a real creative surge for a good few months. Then I stopped reading the book – it was starting to get a bit religious and I couldn’t connect with it as much… even though the publishers pre-empted this possible reaction with a foreword written by an atheist. I haven’t gone back to it, but I will because there was so much in there that made sense.

How to Be a Husband – by Tim Dowling

I was lucky enough to meet Tim Dowling at a blogging conference last November. I can reveal that he is every bit as funny, honest and down-to-earth as his Guardian columns show him to be… and also a lot more handsome in person. I really was thrilled to meet him (could my excitement be any more obvious in this photo OF HIM WITH HIS ARM ROUND ME – I doubt it.) Anyway, sorry sidetracked there… the book… the book is also very funny. As with all non-fiction I tend to dip in and out of it (with a novel I always carry or I’d just forget the storyline) so I haven’t finished it yet, but so far I’m finding it honest, witty and wise.

Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times – edited by Neil Astley

This collection is absolutely what it claims to be: “500 life-affirming poems fired by belief in the human and the spiritual at a time when much in the world feels unreal, inhuman and hollow.” My husband gave me the book last year and, frankly, this year the world has felt more ‘inhuman and hollow’ than ever (is anyone else wishing they could press the ‘reset button’ on 2016?). So this collection feels even more important now. I dip into it when I need to.

Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft – by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

This is a graphic novel that my husband recommended to me. I’ve never read a graphic novel in my life and it’s about time I started. I think as a writer and wannabe illustrator it makes a whole heap of sense to explore a new area of writing (as a reader). I haven’t started this yet *feels guilty* but I will, I will, I will!

You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes – by Chris Hadfield

Astronaut commander Chris Hadfield spent five months in 2013 aboard the international space station, where he used social media to capture the interest and imagination of millions of people world wide (I’m sure he was doing important astronaut work too… ). This is a book brim full of incredible pictures he took of earth from his vantage point in space, punctuated with his thoughts and observations – it’s amazing. My husband took our eldest son to meet Commander Hadfield last November so this is a special signed copy – a fact which makes me very happy!

So that’s my ‘dip in, dip out’ reading stack! What’s on your bedside book list? I’d love to hear any recommendations!

***

Oh, and before I go – I think I’m going to step back a bit from my blog over the summer. I’m already down to just one post a week but time is going to be tight to even get that written, what with having three kids around the place, a diary that is fast (and happily) filling up with meet-ups with friends, and the fact that I want to draw where I can. I’m not saying I won’t post at all, I’m just saying it will be completely ad hoc. I’m going to pause #WhatImWriting over the summer too – I’ll write more about that in the linky post.

Have a great summer!

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What I’m Writing – week eighty-five

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Welcome to week eighty-five of What I’m Writing! Thank you to everyone who linked up last week – I enjoyed reading your posts, as always. I loved reading about Céline’s journey to becoming a ‘mummy blogger’ as well as finding out more about Suzie’s picture book text design, and I thought Nikki’s interview with children’s author Karen Inglis was full of useful insights! For more fabulous posts do pop over and have a read of last week’s link up.

If you’re new here (welcome!) you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short(er) version is I’m a writer who loves blogging about my writing process and reading about those of others. This linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through.

I’ve also set up a private group on Facebook that all linkers are welcome to join. It’s somewhere we can share work and have a chat about all things writerly (and whatever else we fancy really). It’s a ‘secret group’ which means you’ll need an invitation to join so once you’ve linked up just let me know if you want me to send an invite.

If you’d like to join in you’re very welcome! There are just a few suggestions for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use my badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to my blog. I will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet me a link to your post @writingbubble then I will RT.

Please link up below – just click on the blue button that says ‘add your link’ and follow the instructions. I look forward to reading your posts. :)

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those decisions I made

You know when you’re writing a blog post and you keep deleting it and starting again because there’s so much to say and maybe you want to say it all but maybe you actually want to say none of it and would rather just talk about something else instead? That.

So lets talk about something else, shall we?

fields of gold

Remember how I set myself some goals a month ago? Maybe it’s time to report back on those. See how I’ve done. That will keep me nice and distracted…

So, I made a decision to only blog once a week:

And bar one extra blog post (which just burst out of me) I’ve stuck to this and it’s made a huge difference. I have far more time for other things and it’s also taken the (self-imposed) pressure off me to blog in a certain way or follow any sort of plan – I’ve just been blogging from the heart and seeing how it goes. This, in itself, has felt different to me – there have been times when I’ve been scared to hit ‘publish’ because the posts have felt too raw or real and it’s made me feel vulnerable. But I’ve gone ahead and done it and the support I’ve had in the comments section has been wonderful. At a time when I’ve been feeling all over the place, blogging from the heart has soothed me. That’s been a lovely unexpected consequence of my decision.

I also decided to stop joining in with linkies other than my own.

Again, I’ve stuck to this (apart from one little link up with #Prose4t) and it’s made such a difference to my evenings! I’m no longer caught up in hours of blog commenting. The downside has been I’ve missed reading the variety of posts and I feel less connected to the wider blogging community… but my own little #WhatImWriting community is thriving as much as ever. You can’t have it all and I’ve become very aware that I can’t scatter my attention too widely without losing something.

Of course both these decisions about blogging were bound to affect my blog stats… but, having just looked at them right now for the first time in weeks, funnily enough they’re just back to where they were in February before my blog post about education and #THISislearning campaign sent my hits rocketing. Huh. I thought they would have plummeted way more than that. Ok, I’m quite chuffed!

Then there was my reading target – one book a fortnight.

I’ve almost stuck to that – I’ve read (loved) and reviewed Baby X by Rebecca Ann Smith and am now reading Quiet – the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking‘ by Susan Cain. As a self-confessed introvert, I’m loving it (it’s not exactly a hard sell!) and finding it really enlightening.

I also said I didn’t intend to do any creative writing in June.

This was because I was struggling to find time for writing as well as drawing and was somehow ending up doing less of both because my focus was so split. True to my intentions (with one exception) I wrote nothing creative throughout the month. My brain was full of story ideas though, so that creative drive didn’t go away! It also felt great to relieve myself of the self-imposed pressure and most of all it made a huge difference to my main aim…

… to draw every day.

I DID IT! I set myself a #GuessTheFilm challenge where I worked my way through the alphabet drawing a different picture to represent/suggest a different film every day. I posted them all on Twitter and Instagram and some on Facebook too and had a lot of fun with people guessing them. I also plain old loved the experience of drawing, built up a few skills and some confidence and I’m now working on an assignment for my illustration course. Drawing has really helped me emotionally and psychologically over the last few weeks too. Writing has helped too in a kind of cathartic, letting it out way, but there’s something about visual art that has taken me away from what’s going on in my head (and what’s going on in the world). Good stuff.

#Guessthe film f - I

Anything else? Oh yes – social media! I said I’d stick to just half an hour a day in the evening.

*Falls off chair laughing at utter failure to stick to this goal at all.*

We’ll leave it at that shall we?

Oh, and there was the very important goal of making the time with my youngest count.

I’d love to report some kind of soft-focussed, skipping through fields, glowing version of the last month here, but I’ll be honest. The boy is an utter delight most of the time and one of the reasons he’s an utter delight is that he is amazing at entertaining himself. He wanders off and creates stories with his cars, he wraps himself in blankets and says he’s going shopping (because the traditional way to go shopping is in a blanket sausage), he ‘reads’ books to himself, he does jigsaws… and, yes, ok, he watches ‘the wheels on the bus’ on You Tube far too many times. Could I have spent more time baking and crafting and taking part in wholesome, pinable activities with him? Yes. But we’ve spent some lovely, quality time together nonetheless. He’s really lovely to chat to (even at the tender age of three) and we even did skip through a field!

Finally, I decided I wouldn’t go to BritMums Live

I had been looking forward to it but when it got nearer the time it just didn’t feel right. Instead, I spent time that weekend with friends close to home. It was what I needed. No regrets.

Over all – not a bad month. Well, kinda. Considering. You know what I mean.

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What I’m Writing – week eighty-four

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Welcome to week eighty-four of What I’m Writing! Thank you to everyone who linked up last week – I loved reading your posts! This linky isn’t normally about politics but there’s been so much political intensity going on in the UK recently I’ve found it hard to write about anything else! In a week when many of us were reeling from the referendum result, I found Sophie’s post ‘Beyond Brexit‘ and Marija’s about neoliberalism, really thought-provoking. On matters more bloggy, I loved Alice’s post about lessons learned in her first year of blogging while, over in the creative writing department, I enjoyed Emma’s poem about family life! For more fabulous posts do pop over and have a read of last week’s link up.

If you’re new here (welcome!) you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short(er) version is I’m a writer who loves blogging about my writing process and reading about those of others. This linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through.

I’ve also set up a private group on Facebook that all linkers are welcome to join. It’s somewhere we can share work and have a chat about all things writerly (and whatever else we fancy really). It’s a ‘secret group’ which means you’ll need an invitation to join so once you’ve linked up just let me know if you want me to send an invite.

If you’d like to join in you’re very welcome! There are just a few suggestions for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use my badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to my blog. I will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet me a link to your post @writingbubble then I will RT.

Please link up below – just click on the blue button that says ‘add your link’ and follow the instructions. I look forward to reading your posts. :)

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Book review – Baby X by Rebecca Ann Smith

BabyX

 

“Alex Mansfield, the doctor leading a groundbreaking project to grow a human foetus in an artificial uterus, has gone on the run and taken the newborn baby with her. While the child’s parents wait anxiously for news, and the world’s media clamour for answers, Alex’s colleagues are shocked by her actions. Has Alex stolen the baby, or is there another motive behind her disappearance?

Baby X weaves science and medical ethics into an intimate thriller; asking questions without offering easy answers.”

 

I’ve been longing to get my hands on this book for a while, having met its author, Rebecca Ann Smith, last October when Baby X was being edited. Becky described her book as “a psychological thriller about motherhood, technology and medical ethics”, which had me intrigued from the start! Many months, edits and a publication date later, having finally devoured my copy, I’m pleased to say that the book (much like Becky herself) had me thoroughly engaged and captivated.

The novel’s eponymous baby is the first human being to be grown in a medical laboratory, inside an artificial uterus. Apart from that though, he is just an average baby who has grown and developed normally. Because, although an artificial uterus might sound odd, it’s totally safe – a controlled environment designed to provide for the foetus in much the way a mother’s womb does. So there’s no reason to believe that his development would have been affected or altered in anyway by outside forces… is there?

So why has the doctor devoted to his conception and care, run away with him? What does she know (or suspect) that may have led her to such drastic action? Is In Vitro Gestation (IVG) really as safe as it purports to be, or are sinister forces at work?

As we try to unravel the mystery, the story is told from three points of view – that of Alex, the doctor who has taken Baby X, Karen, the baby’s mother and Dolly, the research assistant. All three voices are strong and distinctive and I found myself torn particularly between Alex, whose bond with Baby X grows ever more profound, and Karen who just wants her much-longed-for child in her arms. Dolly’s voice introduces a lighter touch and the backdrop of media scrutiny adds to the tension of the unfolding tale.

A great strength of the story was that the science in Baby X felt totally real. I’m aware that Becky did plenty of research in this area and I thought that it was evident – all the ‘science bits’ felt natural and realistic and integrated seamlessly with the rest of the action. Although the idea of IVG feels, in some ways, a million miles from where we are now, within the book it felt like simply an extension of the medical science we already have – we already conceive life outside of the womb so why not grow it there too if we could? In this way, the novel had a contemporary rather than futuristic feel. I could really imagine the issues the novel explores arising in our society, the consequences they might have and the further questions they might raise. It made the book thought-provoking in a way that has lodged with me and lingered.

Of equal importance was the human side of the story which I thought Becky handled with an extremely deft touch. As a mother myself, many of the scenes with Baby X rang profoundly true and were very moving. The attachment of mother and child, the odd, otherworldliness of the newborn, the trials of breastfeeding, the mind-altering, crushing tiredness… all of this was portrayed so accurately, I couldn’t help but empathise with the central characters. It gave the thriller-aspect of the story an added emotional punch.

Overall, this is a hugely impressive debut, one which wound its way to a satisfying conclusion while leaving me with ethical questions to consider beyond its pages. I very much hope you will read it and please let me know if you do as I love nothing more than a good old chat about books!

Baby X is Published by Mothers Milk Books (a lovely independent press which publishes some wonderful books!) and is available to buy here. I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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the uplifting power of words – #ShoreToShore

grassI’ve been feeling fraught lately. Too much emotion, too much worry, too much sadness about the state of our country and our future.

But last night something wonderful happened – I went to Carol Ann Duffy’s Shore to Shore poetry tour. It was held in my local church, a lovely location at the best of times (I say that despite my atheist tendencies) but on this particular occasion it had a bar serving cask ales in it (it did – honest!) and was filled poetry and music.

Poets Gillian Clarke, Imtiaz Dharker, Jackie Kay and Gillian Allnutt all performed along side the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and with musical interludes by John Sampson. I loved it all. I’m not saying I loved each and every poem equally or that each poet affected me the same way. I think poetry is a personal thing and you can find your own meanings within the words. I let some of last night just wash over me, while other parts made me smile or laugh, and still others brought tears to my eyes. Some poems really hit home. Politics did enter the building (at a time like this how could it not?) but I had a strong sense of being surrounded by like-minded people. And we sat side by side and were immersed in thought and intelligence and warmth. It was an evening of out-and-out soul enrichment.

When I got home I wrote a poem about it. I didn’t really think about it I just walked into the room, exchanged pleasantries with my husband (‘How were the kids at bedtime? Perfectly behaved? What, did the stars align this evening or something?’), grabbed a pen and paper and the words appeared on the page. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a poem like that. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a poem.

Of course I’m terrified to share it here – because it’s a first draft and it’s raw and you might think it’s rubbish. But I want to put it somewhere because, I don’t know, there’s been so much sadness recently and the poem is about how I felt last night, remembering what’s good in life. It was transmitted so clearly through those wonderful poems from those wonderful writers and, though I can’t hope to live up to their words, they’ve given me the strength to throw a few of my own out into the world.

Poetry

They fell like raindrops
drenching parched soil –
words of beauty
of truth
of kindness,
of art and wisdom and thought.

They fell like blossom
coating tired streets –
words of culture
of insight
of education,
of rawness and emotion and love.

They fell like sunbeams
through the treetops,
a soft wind through the grasses,
warmth beside me,
gentle hands in my hair.

Prose for Thought
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What I’m Writing – Week eighty-three

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Welcome to week eighty-three of What I’m Writing! Thank you to everyone who linked up last week – I loved reading your posts, as always. I was thrilled to read about the publication of Becky’s book, Baby X ( a review will follow shortly but the short version is – go read it!) – it gave me something to smile about in a week when the country seemed to be spiralling out of control. For much-needed escapism I also loved Geraldine’s poignant short story, and Luisa’s beautiful poem (which I read four times) brought me solace in the way that only poetry can. For more fabulous posts do pop over and have a read of last week’s link up.

If you’re new here (welcome!) you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short(er) version is I’m a writer who loves blogging about my writing process and reading about those of others. This linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through.

I’ve also set up a private group on Facebook that all linkers are welcome to join. It’s somewhere we can share work and have a chat about all things writerly (and whatever else we fancy really). It’s a ‘secret group’ which means you’ll need an invitation to join so once you’ve linked up just let me know if you want me to send an invite.

If you’d like to join in you’re very welcome! There are just a few suggestions for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use my badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to my blog. I will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet me a link to your post @writingbubble then I will RT.

Please link up below – just click on the blue button that says ‘add your link’ and follow the instructions. I look forward to reading your posts. :)

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