Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Testament of Jessie Lamb” as Want to Read:
The Testament of Jessie Lamb
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Testament of Jessie Lamb

3.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,393 Ratings  ·  278 Reviews
Millions of pregnant women in the not-too-distant future are dying from a rogue virus released in an act of biological terrorism. Nothing less than the survival of the human race is at stake.

Jessie Lamb is just an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl living in extraordinary times, who begins to question her parents' attitudes and behavior in her struggle to become independent.
Paperback, 272 pages
Published 2011 by Sandstone Press
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Testament of Jessie Lamb, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Testament of Jessie Lamb

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 155 books — 272 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 — 20 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
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
Jul 25, 2012 Vox rated it liked it
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
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
Sep 30, 2011 Minty rated it it was ok
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
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
May 04, 2012 Nikki rated it liked it
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
Feb 08, 2013 Jeremy Preacher rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi
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.
Jun 14, 2012 Kristen rated it did not like it
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.
Sep 10, 2011 Catriona rated it liked it
Shelves: dystopia
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
May 29, 2012 William Clemens rated it it was ok
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
Jul 18, 2012 Ian rated it liked it
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
Feb 01, 2013 Jessica rated it really liked it
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
Apr 28, 2012 David Hebblethwaite rated it really liked it
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
May 29, 2012 Joanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya-dystopian
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
Tudor Ciocarlie
Sep 03, 2011 Tudor Ciocarlie rated it really liked it
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.
Kathy Piper
May 14, 2015 Kathy Piper rated it it was ok
I highly suspect that if I had read this book while in my teens (disregarding the unlikely event of a time warp), I might have been far more sympathetic towards the main character, Jesse, because I would likely have empathized with her deep desire to help save the world. However, now in my cynical sixties, I find Jesse to be dangerously idealistic, self centered and much akin to the radical extremists who terrorized her futuristic world and who currently terrorize ours. I find so many parallels ...more
Apr 08, 2012 Scruffy rated it it was amazing
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 -
May 26, 2012 Zohar - rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
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 pregnant women and
Jan 21, 2012 Michele rated it it was amazing
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
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
Dec 16, 2011 Darryl rated it did not like it
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 it was ok
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 really liked it
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
Sid Nuncius
Feb 18, 2016 Sid Nuncius rated it it was amazing
I thought this was an excellent book. A good number of other reviewers here obviously don't agree, but I found it thoughtful, gripping and very well written.

The plot has been well rehearsed elsewhere, but revolves around a 16-year-old narrator, Jessie Lamb, in a near future in which a virus has begun to cause the death of any woman who becomes pregnant. Jane Rogers uses this to reflect on a number of social issues including attitudes to women, animal research and so on. She also paints very shar
Andrew Hewitt
Apr 26, 2015 Andrew Hewitt rated it liked it
"The Testament of Jessie Lamb" has an interesting, if not entirely new, take on the end of the world. All pregnant women die due to a disease called MDS, which essentially eats their brain in a nasty fashion, killing both mother and child.

The story follows Jessie Lamb, 16, who narrates a journal of sorts as to how this affects her, and her thought processes as an opportunity arises to potentially be able to help save the world.

(view spoiler)
Meg Y
Mar 12, 2015 Meg Y rated it really liked it
I really liked The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers. One of the main things I liked about it was the difference between it and other dystopian novels I’ve read. Take its plotline, for example. Most dystopian novels are also set in the future, but often include a corrupt government or large, controlling forces. This novel, although set in the future, employs a different sort of antagonist. The main antagonists in the book are MDS and Jessie’s father. MDS has nothing to do with government, ...more
Jen Kolevich
Jan 10, 2015 Jen Kolevich rated it it was ok
I couldn't entirely get into this book and would have a day or two between reading it, but at the same time I wanted to finish it to see what happened in the end. So in a way you could say it interested me enough to find out the ending.
I am not really into dystopian kind of novels as I find them kind of depressing and dark and that is not what I usually go for.
The world of Jessie is bleak to say the least, her family disfunctional, her friendships just as challenging and her views even more com
Lucy Saint-smith
Dec 19, 2014 Lucy Saint-smith rated it liked it
An interesting book with a frankly terrifying concept, The Testament of Jessie Lamb was a good read. The setting is a slightly different spin on a not entirely unique concept. Someone (it is never explained who or why) has released a virus, which quickly spreads to the world's entire population. Called MDS, it is dormant in the system unless you become pregnant, at which point it develops like CJD and you die. The world is therefore in crisis, as there can be no new babies. The medical establish ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Derby Day
  • The Last Hundred Days
  • A Cupboard Full of Coats
  • On Canaan's Side
  • By Light Alone
  • Far to Go
  • Genus
  • Bold as Love (Bold as Love, #1)
  • Drowning Towers
  • Communion Town
  • Unquenchable Fire (Unquenchable Fire, #1)
  • Song of Time
  • Jamrach's Menagerie
  • Dreaming in Smoke
  • Snowdrops
  • Things We Didn't See Coming
  • Pigeon English
  • The Afterparty

Jane Rogers is an award winning author of nine novels, including The Testament of Jessie Lamb, Man-Booker longlisted and winner of the Arthur C Clarke Award 2012.

Other works include Mr Wroe's Virgins (which she dramatised for the BAFTA-nominated BBC drama series), Her Living Image (Somerset Maugham Award) and Promised Lands (Writers Guild Best Fiction Award). Her story collection Hitting Trees wit
More about Jane Rogers...

Share This Book

“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…