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The Testament of Jessie Lamb
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The Testament of Jessie Lamb

3.09 of 5 stars 3.09  ·  rating details  ·  1,128 ratings  ·  247 reviews
Jane Rogers creates an extraordinary character in Jessie Lamb, determined to make her life count in a self-destructing world as the certainties of her life are ripped apart.
Paperback, 272 pages
Published 2011 by Sandstone Press
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The Sense of an Ending by Julian BarnesThe Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWittBefore I Go To Sleep by S.J. WatsonWhen God Was a Rabbit by Sarah WinmanThe Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje
Man Booker Prize Eligible 2011
51st out of 154 books — 257 voters
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWittThe Sense of an Ending by Julian BarnesOn Canaan's Side by Sebastian BarrySnowdrops by A.D. MillerFar to Go by Alison Pick
7th out of 13 books — 19 voters

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Community Reviews

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Petra X
A dystopian tale of ultimate misogyny gone wrong.

It is the appalling end-tale to all those Indians, Pakistanis, Chinese people and others who abort female fetuses or commit infanticide on their girl babies. The disgustingly low place we occupy in the minds of those men who run society and invent religions and the women who lacking power, status and the economic means to challenge these vile and murderous authorities and must therefore, in order to survive themselves, back the status quo.

If fem
I am an English teacher, so if there is one thing in which I am well-versed, it is literary symbolism. Teach it, love it, know it. When done well, it's subtle enough to present a challenge but not so obvious that a third grader can spot it.

In the case of The Testament of Jessie Lamb, the symbolism is IN YOUR FACE. You can't avoid it, even if you prefer your books simple and approachable. It permeates this book like stink from a skunk.

Let's start with the first obvious symbol: Jessie Lamb. The na
I was intrigued by the premise of the book and felt the author raised some very intriguing issues, none of which was covered in any depth.

The first half of the book was quite gripping as the author set up a vivid world which could have gone in any number of challenging and meaningful directions. None of these progressed anywhere as the first person structure of the book led Jessie to turn her attentions back on herself. I wonder if the clever title of the book has in fact limited the author. Th
I don't know what to think about this. The more I think about it, the less sure about it I become: I actually read it more or less in one go, and didn't want to put it down while reading it, but on reflection I'm not sure how convincing I found it or what I really thought of Jessie's decisions. I found her convincing -- she really did seem like a typical teenager, full of the desire to change the world, contemptuous of the adults who got it all wrong. I found the world convincing, too: the idea ...more
Jeremy Preacher
The setup is interesting - an engineered virus triggers mad cow disease in all pregnant women - and the book is an exploration of a young woman's right to self-determination in these apocalyptic circumstances, which I do appreciate.

For whatever reason, though, it just didn't really click for me. I am inclined to suspect that it's the worldbuilding problem - I just didn't really find the larger-scale reaction to such a world-changing event convincing, and that undercut the careful character work.
INTRODUCTION: As noted in the recent post discussing novels by Alison Pick, Julian Barnes and Patrick McGuiness, the annual Booker longlist is one the most important sources of books I would probably not hear about otherwise.

So when The Testament of Jessie Lamb appeared on the 2011 list, I became very intrigued by the novel and I decided to read it as soon as possible. The blurb below while generally accurate, is a little misleading in that the novel is a very personal one where Jessie Lamb's ta
Jenny (Reading Envy)
When I saw the Booker Longlist for 2011, I was most excited about this book. It took a while to track it down since not many libraries in the states had purchased it yet!

I love a good dystopian novel, but I think this one is a little less than good. The premise is interesting - every human has been infected with MDS, a disease which lies dormant in the body until a woman becomes pregnant, and she dies soon after. Humanity is having to face the idea of becoming extinct, and it doesn't take long f
Is this what teenagers are really like? I don't remember being such a brat when I was 16. I remember being frustrated with the state of the world/environment but these kids are hideous. The whole "all adults deserve to die" mindset of everyone in her teen activism group is really obnoxious. I am about halfway through this book and I find Jessie (and frankly all the other teens) to be so immature and unlikeable that I don't really want to finish it.
ETA: I finished it and found her slightly less
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is a 7/10 for me. I enjoyed it but I couldn't help but feel I was reading a version of the Handmaid's Tale for the facebook generation. Although we're told it was an act of biological terrorism that has stopped women being able to get pregnant successfuly and to full term, this is never really explained and the additional groups ionvolved in the more political aspect of the book are not developed enough for me. It is written in an almost diary style, so we are seeing everything through Jess ...more
William Clemens
I was hoping for a lot from this book, and was interested after the whole controversy about the Arthur C Clarke award, and it just didn't deliver.

Imagine a world where there is a virus, triggered during pregnancy, which destroys the brain of the mother, killing both her and her child. Imagine that young girls are being implanted with pre-disease embryos in order to save the human race and religious and social group are rising up in violent protest. Imagine reading about all of this from the pers
This was, I believe, longlisted for the Booker, but since the plot summary made it clear it was sf-written-by-a-mainstream-author I picked up a copy just before Waterstone's abolished their 3-for-2 promotion. And it's certainly sf, in the same way The Handmaid's Tale or Children of Men are. Or even Nineteen Eighty-four. At some point in the near-future, a virus is released which infects everyone. But when women become pregnant, it turns into full-blown Creuzfeld-Jakob Syndrome and is always fata ...more
This was in some ways a difficult book to read. The book is supposed to be about the maturity and struggle of a teenage girl trying to find her own voice and make her own choices separate from her parents in a post-bio-warfare world and yet the choice she ultimately makes and her reasoning for it remain firmly adolescent.
I wanted to cheer for this heroine and yet I found myself not only disagreeing with her choice but disagreeing with her entire thought process. By the end of the book I did not
David Hebblethwaite
Reviewed as part of the 2012 Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist.

They called it MDS – Maternal Death Syndrome. No one knew where it originated, but its effects were all too familiar: to lay waste to the brains of any women who became pregnant – with no possible exceptions, because everyone carries the disease. Jessie Lamb is a teenager living near Manchester; though her father is a fertility scientist, she has little care for the state of the world – as far as she’s concerned, this is just the way
Originally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.

I had no idea what to expect when I first picked this book up. The description above gives a vague but intriguing glimpse into what is actually a really strong, thought-provoking story, and once I started reading, I was swept away.

Jessie is living in a world where terroist have created and released an airborne virus which every single person in the world contracts. This virus is Maternal Death Syndrome (MDS), which is only triggered in women once they fa
Elas Büchertruhe
Was würde passieren, wenn Frauen plötzlich nicht mehr in der Lage sind, Kinder zu bekommen?
Richtig, die Menschheit sterbe früher oder später aus.
Dieses Thema hat Jane Rogers in ihrem Roman verarbeitet.
Die 16 jährige Jessie wächst in einer Zeit auf, in der Frauen sich während ihrer Schwangerschaften mit einem Virus infizieren, dessen Symptome der Kreutzfeld jacobschen Krankheit ähnelt. Sie sterben und auch ihre Embryos haben keinerlei Chance auf Leben.

Jessie will diese Tatsache, aber um nichts au
Tudor Ciocarlie
A very strong Booker longlist novel. The only reason that I've gave it 4 stars is because I've read it after the brilliant Random Acts of Senseless Violence. No other young female voice living the beginning of an apocalypse and the disintegration of the society can be as good as Lola in the Jack Womack's book. But Jesse story, of a girl fighting herself, her parents, her friends in order to save the world, is very well written and full with interesting, thought provoking ideas.
In the very near future biological terrorists release a virus called MDS which kills women when they get pregnant. Jessie Lamb is a sixteen year old girl trying to make sense of the changed world she finds herself in. It's quite a terrifying set-up for a novel, a world where we can no longer produce children. For the first time the human race can finally see it's end.

The story is told from the first person perspective of Jessie Lamb. She is frightened by the future and angry at adults for leavin
Zohar -
The Tes­ta­ment of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers is an award win­ning science-fiction book tak­ing place in the near future. This is a book that out of my com­fort zone as I usu­ally don’t read this genre (I used to), but I’m glad I read and think it’s impor­tant to read books which you might not otherwise.

Jessie Lamb is 16 years old, daugh­ter of a British sci­en­tist attempt­ing to find a cure for MDS, a nasty virus. MDS was unleashed upon the world by an unknown group; the virus attacks preg­nan
A strange plague has emerged that strikes pregnant women. By the time it's identified, the virus (MDS, or Maternal Death Syndrome) has already spread throughout the world and is latent in everyone; triggered upon pregnancy, it causes rapid progressive brain degeneration and is invariably fatal to both mother and child. Research suggests it was genetically engineered deliberately, by combining Creutzfeldt-Jacob Syndrome with a virus, but no one knows why or by whom. A few scientists have come up ...more
Melissa Caldwell
This book was thoroughly thought provoking. The premise is unsettling and was well presented by Jane Rogers. Jessie Lamb is a normal girl growing up in a world that is changing. Women can get pregnant, but they die. The babies too. Scientists are trying to figure out what is going on and how to stop it, but at what cost? Girls. Girls are either volunteering or being coerced into becoming "sleeping beauties" and thus basically killing themselves for the good of human kind.

This book brought up so
As the synopsis says, Jessie Lamb is an ordinary girl living in extraordinary times. The premise of The Testament of Jessie Lamb is an absolutely fascinating one -- an act of biological terrorism has created a situation in which everybody carries a virus within them that has the potential to kill them, but the virus is triggered only in pregnant women and when it is triggered, it kills them. The very survival of the human race depends on finding a way to deal with this horrible reality, but the ...more
This is unquestionably the worst Booker longlisted book I've ever read. It's a dystopic novel supposedly set a few months in the future, in which millions of women are dying from Maternal Death Syndrome, a mysterious infection that turns women's brains to cottage cheese after they become pregnant. The narrator is a 16 year old girl who is appalled by what is taking place, and by the relative indifference of those in power toward the plight of the women. She becomes active in several futile youth ...more
Nov 20, 2011 Alice rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Someone writing a dissertation on the impact of the Handmaid's Tale on literature
A strange book, but with one of my favorite dystopian premises: the human race can no longer reproduce. Jessie is a teenager dealing with this inevitability. The reason I think this book is strange has nothing to do with the premise: it's the politics. Although this book had incredible potential, it doesn't really take a stand on anything and so it half-assedly explores radical feminism, pro-life politics, children's rights movements, animal liberation etc. but doesn't take any of them to any so ...more
Jeff Raymond
A book and movie I loved, Children of Men dealt with a society that went completely infertile. That is the best analogous book I can compare The Testament of Jessie Lamb to, in which the story is about a virus that kills pregnant women and the people trying to do something about it in various ways.

The book was up for a bunch of awards and spoken highly of on a sci-fi blog I read, but the story itself is very understated, especially given the magnitude of the situation being described. The sense
May 01, 2013 Andrea rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: sf
My liking of this started off a little slow and it was weirdly reminiscent of reading Margaret Atwood, but at the end I was all conflicted and thoughtful, in ways that I really liked. I'm not sure how well this captures the exact voice of a 16 year old, but I loved how it did capture the heady mix of selfishness and selflessness that belongs to the age, and the ways that complicates everything immensely. You remember how you were and the ways your point of view and feelings have changed over the ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chris Donaldson
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's set in a near-future world where all women have contracted a mysterious virus which kills them if they conceive a child. The novel is the journal of a teenager who is struggling to come to some kind of adjustment to the changes that she and the world are undergoing.
I liked the way she spoke, a mixture of wisdom and naïveté, and thought that the world she lived in was well-described.
Elizabeth Ashworth
In some ways I thought the book promised more than it delivered. The story is told through the eyes of 16 year old Jessie Lamb as she watches Maternal Death Syndrome threaten to wipe out humanity, but the restricted viewpoint meant that much of the book is in the form of Jessie's internal monologue and towards the end it becomes slightly tedious as it is obvious what the ending will be.
Ellen Tristram
This month's Mr B was The Testament of Jessie Lamb. I had never actually heard of it, or of Jane Rogers, the author, although it has been longlisted for the Man Booker! And I thought I was aware of books that on the Booker list! It was a little while ago (2011), so there is my excuse...

Because of this, I had expected it to be an adult book: as far as I know, the Man Booker doesn't branch out into young adult literature. Now, to me, The Testament of Jessie Lamb felt very much like young adult lit
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Jane Rogers has written five novels & the script for the BBC adaptation of "Mr. Wroe's Virgins," directed by Danny Boyle & starring Minnie Driver & Jonathan Pryce. Her "Living Image" won the Somerset Maugham Award, & "Promised Lands" won the Writers Guild Award for best novel. In 1994 Rogers was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She lives in Lancashire, England.

More about Jane Rogers...
Island Mr Wroe's Virgins Promised Lands The Ice Is Singing The Voyage Home

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“Perfect crime,' he said softly.
'Persuade an innocent, idealistic young girl that the future of the human race depends on her sacrificing her own life. She will come into hospital as trustingly as a lamb to the slaughter. She will welcome the implantation of a baby that will kill her. She'll lie there while her brain is destroyed for nine whole months, and no police will arrest you, no court will judge you, you'll get away scot free. At the end of nine months she'll be taken off life support and she'll be completely dead. And no one will be blamed.”
“You want to save the world."

"What's wrong with that?"

He sighed in exasperation. "You are too young to understand. People get by."

"I don't want to get by. I want to know my life's been useful.”
More quotes…