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Timely and suspenseful, Sealed is a gripping modern fable on motherhood, a terrifying portrait of ordinary people under threat from their own bodies and from the world around them. With elements of speculative fiction and the macabre, this is also an unforgettable story about a mother’s fight to survive.

Heavily pregnant Alice and her partner Pete are done with the city. Above all, Alice is haunted by the rumours of the skin sealing epidemic starting to infect the urban population. Surely their new remote mountain house will offer safety, a place to forget the nightmares and start their little family. But the mountains and their people hold a different kind of danger.With their relationship under intolerable pressure, violence erupts and Alice is faced with the unthinkable as she fights to protect her unborn child.

170 pages, Paperback

First published September 25, 2017

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About the author

Naomi Booth

11 books47 followers
Naomi Booth is a writer and academic. Her fiction tends to explore unsettling landscapes, strange compulsions, dangerous bodies and contamination. Her short fiction has been longlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, the Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize, and included in Best British Short Stories 2019. Her story Sour Hall was adapted into an audio drama by Audible.

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5 stars
158 (15%)
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362 (35%)
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336 (33%)
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121 (11%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 223 reviews
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,718 reviews1,159 followers
March 31, 2019
Part of the 2018 Guardian Not The Booker shortlist for which I am delighted to have been picked as a judge.


This book is published by Dead Ink, a UK small press focused on bringing” the most challenging and experimental new writing out from the underground and present it to our audience in the most beautiful way possible.”

Impressively Dead Ink have two books on the Guardian 2018 Not The Booker shortlist – this (picked by public vote) and Three Dreams In The Key Of G picked by last year’s judges.

This book could be best described as a near-future dystopian, eco-horror based around pregnancy.

Perhaps the nearest recent literary equivalents are: the haunting motherhood-based Fever Dream (shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker prize); and the fragmentary novella The End We Start From – where a new mother flees apocalyptic floods.

In this book, the first party 30+ weeks pregnant narrator, Alice, has recently left the City (clearly Sydney) to move out to the countryside (The Blue Mountains) together with her partner Pete (who initially comes across as a fairly one-dimensional Aussie bloke).

For Alice, a worker in the local housing department, it is a chance to move away urban environmental pollution, before it is too late. In particular she is obsessed by a relatively new condition which has emerged – Cutis, first observed in the local waste dump by a down-and-out whose mouth has sealed over, asphyxiating him. Whereas official reports downplay the danger of this condition, Alice, through her work, internet research and blogging is convinced it is far more widespread and common that admitted and has contributed to many deaths ascribed to other conditions (including that of her mother).

For Pete, he is also looking for a clean start and new environment but the pollution he thinks that they are escaping is Alice’s obsession with the condition which he sees as verging on hysterical – later another male character Paulie drags her away at a barbeque claiming you had a total epi out there ... you’re having a panic attack that is all. Interestingly as an aside the author, a teacher of creative writing, has an academic specialism in the literary history of swooning.

Like another book on the Not The Booker shortlist (Raising Sparks) – the epigraph is taken from The Book of Job – in this case Job 10:8-11, which in verse 11 says Thou didst clothe me with skin and flesh.

However the key text to understanding this book Alice, remembers from her childhood – her single parent mother, estranged from her strict non-conformist British parents, draws on her vet’s assistant experience to comfort Ali through her childhood cuts and scrapes by reassuring her

That’s how clever the skin is, she said, it makes the bad things disappear

Most obviously this comes across in the condition Cutis. Even after the first outbreaks an expert diagnoses a potential link with pollution and with the skin’s mechanisms:

The condition might, he suggested, be similar in mechanism to an auto-immune disease: a potentially deadly, misdirected defence response. The skin in these .. cases was acting in aberrant ways, knitting together in disastrous patterns: might it be, he speculated, that the skin was attempting to protect the body from dangerous environmental pollutants, sealing the body off in the process.

However what is impressive about the novel is how the same ideas are also examined from different angles.

The Cutis disease exacerbates two existing divides in society between the privileged and the disadvantaged: the rich increasingly sealing themselves off from the poor; the first world seeking to seal itself off from the third world.

For those with expensive tastes, protected food guaranteed an indoor reared product, with minimal exposure with atmospheric pollution and chemical treatment. Those who could afford to bought the special food, bought their face masks for high polution days, bought their private insurance for high-speed surgery. .... only poor people ever seemed to die from cutis, poor people far away, or poor people at home who didn't take care of themselves .... Only the feckless and faraway had anything to fear.

And, even more chillingly, the authorities use the state of environmental crisis to facilitate aggressive policies which further exacerbate this divide: shutting down on rural services, carrying out a form of socio-ethnic cleansing aimed at the poor, the rural and the original native population – who are encouraged to displaced people’s camps; and ramping up the use of offshore displaced people’s camps to stop would-be immigrants reaching the mainland. A reader cannot help me reminded of the way in which the financial crisis was used to justify austerity policies.

And then the same theme of “sealing off” is examined more personally in terms of Alice and her relationships. Alice is, an introvert, and also someone who has sealed herself of emotionally – unwilling to expose herself to the dangers of relationships and make herself vulnerable to hurt. When she first realises Pete, a childhood friend, loves her she thinks What bit of the tiny sliver of myself that I allowed to escape can possibly have given you enough grounds for love. When she does open up to Pete, and is hurt, her mental skin seals back over and she holds herself back from any future commitment – even after the unplanned pregnancy forces them back together.

After her first enthusiasm and betrayal she reflects on relationships that after the first flames, everything is just dying sparks – an interesting counterpoint to the title of “Raising Sparks” (which is taken from its Job-sourced epigraph).

Her emotional distance applied also to her mother – in fact she realises that Pete as a child was closer to her mother, who Alice pushed away; and now that distance and sealing off threatens to apply to her unborn child.

The author, with past success as a short story and novella writer, makes a very successful transition to the novel form – managing to pack in a range of themes in in a relatively short novel.

And just as these themes have been explored, the book then ends in a horrific, visceral, but still intriguingly open, climax.

Profile Image for Victoria (Eve's Alexandria).
655 reviews381 followers
February 21, 2018
This was a completely unexpected triumph of a book. I bought it entirely on a whim in my local independent and read it immediately, prompted by Aliya Whiteley’s recommendation on the back. And it’s blooming wonderful. A searing and unflinching work of eco-horror told in a lyrical and muscular prose. I was utterly drawn in by Alice’s narrative voice, and thought the final 30 pages were a masterpiece of suspense. It was the book I wanted Megan Hunter’s The End We Start From to be. Probably the best thing I’ve read so far this year.
Profile Image for Renee Godding.
572 reviews546 followers
June 23, 2021
What the actual everloving fuck... this final scene. This is why I’m terrified of childbirth.

I don’t quite know how I feel about this overall. Very well done, but one of the most unpleasant things I’ve read in a long time, and I’m not sure it that’s a good thing in this case. I Need a little time to let this sink in.

If you’ve read this: would love to hear your thoughts. I could use some input on other people’s interpretations.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Lark Benobi.
Author 1 book1,643 followers
November 25, 2019
A woman gets pregnant unexpectedly, just as the world careens toward a the most horrific eco-disaster you can imagine. The writing was great, the emotional landscape was truthful, and I'm going to read everything Naomi Booth writes from now on.

My fondest delight, when it came to my reading experience with this book, was the birth scene. I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say there is a birth scene, since the whole book before then is the story of a ponderously pregnant woman searching for a safe place to give birth, while simultaneously coping with some seriously creepy eco-disaster action.

This birth scene, when it comes, is magnificently done. Ok, it ignores the way that every contraction, in actual birth, is a peak experience of sorts...but even without that explicit kind of veracity, the scene captures the deep-heart horrific truth about birth. It captures what it's like to have your body taken over by a primal force over which you have no control. No matter how great a woman's individual birth experience might be (or how great she happens to remember it being, later, when it's over), every laboring woman comes to understand at some point (unless she is utterly etherized), that her body is no longer hers...and that realization can be momentarily disorienting, or completely terrifying, depending on how you feel in general about experiencing a total loss of control of your body. Naomi Booth nails it.

So at the heart of this eco-horror-fiction Naomi Booth has slyly written the best metaphor for birth-terror that I've ever read.


Go, Naomi Booth!

I'm a fan.
Profile Image for Brandon Baker.
Author 12 books2,445 followers
August 26, 2022
The synopsis of this story makes it sound a whole lot more exciting than it actually was. This is one of those books where nothing happens until the last like 30 pages, and even then it’s insanely anticlimactic and not at all what was alluded. It was a quick read with little pay off, and I just feel like I wasted my time unfortunately 😅
Profile Image for TraceyL.
988 reviews133 followers
October 25, 2020
A pregnant woman, who is basically afraid of everything, tries to survive a pandemic where people's orifices seal over. I wanted more of the disease stuff in the story. There was way too much of the main character's panicked thoughts about everything from her body to the environment to chemicals in their food.

She was probably the dumbest pregnant woman I've ever read about. I understand that she didn't want to be pregnant in the first place, and was avoiding preparing for the baby because she couldn't mentally handle the thought of giving birth. But when the time comes she seemed bewildered that she had to push a baby out, and didn't know what the umbilical cord or placenta was.

I can't decide if it's a 2 star or a 3 star rating. The pandemic stuff was a unique idea which lead to some cool imagery. But I kind of hated the rest of the book.
Profile Image for Jason.
1,170 reviews104 followers
June 9, 2018
In my opinion there are two types of dystopian novels; 1: Ones that are way in the future, completely unbelievable and a nice entertaining read (The Hunger Games fir example). 2: Ones that are in the near future, you can see humans heading in this direction, it is possible that these could happen whilst you're still alive, these books can be really scary. Sealed falls into the second category.

In this future, the temperature has risen, food has been poisoned by chemicals and plastics in the water. Clean food is grown indoors where it can be kept pure from pollution. The cities spend most of their time shrouded in smog. The way the government tries to deal with it all is to move people into camps... "for their own safety". This all feels like it could be us in the next few years. On top of all this there is a disease spreading which causes skin to grow over any openings on your body.

The books main characters are Ali and Pete who are expecting their first child and have moved out of the city to escape the disease and smog. They have a nice house with nice views, but there just isn't any way to escape the damage caused to the planet.

The story has you on the edge of your seat, the last 40 pages are truly incredible, jaw dropping at times. I hope this book gets noticed by loads of readers because it deserves to become one of the top books of 2018.

Blogpost here> https://felcherman.wordpress.com/2018...
Profile Image for enricocioni.
303 reviews23 followers
January 15, 2018
Now THAT was an ending. The last twenty or so pages of Sealed are the closest thing a book has ever made me feel to that scene towards the end of a horror film when something horrific is about to happen or is happening and every fibre of your being wants to look away but your eyes remain glued to the screen—(a) because you’re paralysed by terror, (b) because if you look away you known your imagination may well conjure things that are even worse than what the filmmakers came up with, (c) because you’re a little bit curious to see how far the filmmakers will go and how many boundaries they will transgress, or (d) all of the above. That was what the last twenty pages or so of Sealed were like. I'd even go so far as to say it's a Rosemary's Baby for our times. Check out my full review over at my blog, Strange Bookfellows: https://strangebookfellowsblog.wordpr...
Profile Image for Sue Gerhardt Griffiths.
742 reviews37 followers
October 30, 2021
This was meant to be my Halloween 🎃 read. Nothing spooky 👻 here. This was just plain silly and not the creepy and atmospheric, horror thriller I was hoping for.

Not only was it bizarre but I especially hated the last 5 minutes, rambling on about the forest not wanting us here filthying up the air and the water and the soil, watching us steal it and mine it and run poison into its seams. What a load of rot. Don’t believe everything the environmentalists and globalists tell you, they’re pushing climate change for their own agenda and trying to stuff up/bankrupt Australia in the process.

U.N. Predicts Disaster if Global Warming Not Checked - June 29, 1989

United Nations - A senior U.N. environmental official says entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000.

It is time we stopped believing the corrupt U.N. and politicians. Disgusted with what these politicians are doing to our country and its people.

If I read another book where the author is buying into the climate change BS or mentions that we are destroying the earth I’m going to burn 🔥 the book.
Profile Image for Marijn Sikken.
Author 5 books68 followers
November 14, 2019

Ik heb heel veel op deze roman aan te merken. Zo slaat het vertelperspectief nergens op - waarom zou Alice, vanuit de ik, de wereld waarin ze leeft aan zichzelf uitleggen alsof ze het tegen een vreemde heeft? Ook vond ik de Aussi-slang nogal opzichtig en geforceerd en het verbaast me dan ook niets te lezen dat meer mensen zich daaraan stoorden.
Tegelijkertijd is er genoeg te genieten. Of: te gruwelen. Want wat een oerangsten worden hier aangesproken. Heb ik het over cutis, die ziekte waarbij je huid je lichaam overgroeit, afsluit, zodat je stikt of verhongert of wat dan ook? Heb ik het over de politiek, die (armere) mensen in kampen stopt waar ze nooit meer uitkomen? Heb ik het over het grote enge liefhebben, dat wij mensen zo nodig hebben maar waaraan we ons maar zo moeilijk kunnen overgeven? Misschien. Maar nog meer heb ik het over dit: de angst moeder te worden.
Dat is waar Sealed over gaat en dat stuk is ijzersterk.

O, en de laatste dertig pagina’s las ik in een restaurant en prompt viel ik bijna flauw. Was het de wijn of de....nou ja, lees maar.
Profile Image for Trisha.
4,537 reviews157 followers
July 21, 2019
After the first flames, everything is just dying sparks."

This was an interesting if jumbled read. I liked the uncertainty and the real horror of it. But I didn't like the feeling of really wondering what was going on and if the MC Alice was just imagining it all or if it was really happening. I felt like the world was just barely opened up to us, with so much more possibility. Was Alice really breathing anything in? I wanted so much more world and information less about Alice's own musing and memories. It's an original story, for sure, and an interesting horror idea.
Profile Image for Erika Lynn (shelf.inspiration).
362 reviews157 followers
December 27, 2021
3 Stars

See more on my Bookstagram: Shelf.Inspiration Instagram

“I can still remember what it felt like to be that open, to be at that age when the world was new enough to be exciting, yet obscure enough not to be terrifying.” - Sealed.

Heavily pregnant Alice and her partner Pete are done with the city. Above all, Alice is haunted by the rumours of the skin sealing epidemic starting to infect the urban population. Surely their new remote mountain house will offer safety, a place to forget the nightmares and start their little family. But the mountains and their people hold a different kind of danger. With their relationship under intolerable pressure, violence erupts and Alice is faced with the unthinkable as she fights to protect her unborn child.

I don’t quite remember where I heard about this book, but I remember the synopsis grabbing my attention. Overall, it was a quick read about a couple who moves to a remote area due to a pandemic, but things aren’t as safe there as they seem. It was definitely a tense read and some parts were quite anxiety inducing. However, I could not stand the husband character in this book. I don’t think we were supposed to particularly like him, so the writing of his character was great, but it distracted me from other parts of the book. Also, I do wish we got a little more of the world and the state of things pandemic wise since I found it interesting. Overall, this is a unique book and is different than other pandemic-like books I have read. If you do pick this up, be aware that it gets a little gory towards the end, but not too much in my opinion.
Profile Image for Mary.
418 reviews773 followers
January 17, 2022
4 stars for how into it I was, and how brutal and foreboding it was – but it made no sense to randomly set this story in Australia when the author obviously knows very little about how Australians actually speak.
Profile Image for Jackie Law.
876 reviews
December 13, 2017
“I’d felt it too, the too-muchness of being in love. But I hated Pete for it at the same time. I hated his freedom and how guiltlessly he lived, how easily he took love and gave love, and how much danger he’d put me in. And most of all, I hated that he might be right, that he was living the right way and that I was wrong: too frightened, too careful, too guarded to really enjoy life.”

Sealed, by Naomi Booth, is set in a near future Australia. Rising temperatures have brought with them storms and deadly heat events. Wild fires, pollution and other environmental catastrophes make day to day living uncomfortable for all.

Alice and her partner, Pete, are expecting their first child. With less than a month to go before the baby is due they leave the city, its toxic air and growing climate of fear. They move from their cramped apartment to a remote house overlooking the Blue Mountains. It is planned as a fresh start in cleaner air, somewhere to establish their little family.

Alice has recently lost her mother. She lives in fear of a new condition known as cutis which causes skin to grow where it should not. People have died and Alice suspects a cover-up as few cases are being reported. Pete believes she is looking for problems that do not exist.

The government is trying to manage the growing threats from all quarters by moving its poorer citizens into camps where they may be cared for, monitored and controlled. As part of her job in the city housing department, Alice had visited one such camp during its regular inspection. Privately run, it ensured records of residents’ health and behaviour reflected only good practice. Detailed causes of death were not disclosed, the manager citing reasons of patient confidentiality.

Pete is excited at the prospect of fatherhood. He becomes frustrated when Alice fixates on what he regards as imaginary threats and conspiracies. Eager to fit in he befriend locals. They question why he has taken Alice from the city to a place such as this but will not explain to her what they mean. They regard Alice as a killjoy as they try to make the best of a situation they cannot change. Pete dismisses Alice’s concerns as the irrational behaviour she agreed to leave behind. She mingles with their new acquaintances but cannot put aside her fears.

“She gasps with laughter and I can’t help it, it’s totally contagious, I’m not even stoned and I start to laugh a bit too. She squeezes my hand again. This is how I used to make friends, when I didn’t see every person and every place as a contagion to be guarded against.”

With Alice’s due date approaching she tries to register for medical care but what little exists is already overwhelmed. Alice tells Pete she believes she spotted a case of cutis. He does not wish to face such a possibility.

The tension in the story builds as Alice and Pete’s backgrounds are revealed. The reader cannot be sure if her paranoia is justified, if there is any point in fighting back given the wider situation. The climax is reached when Alice goes into labour. The denouement is horrifying yet somehow inevitable.

As with the best dystopian fiction this is a parable for today. The reader fears what is being gradually revealed yet cannot look away. Government reactions are all too believable.

A tale that I flew through and shuddered at the possibilities presented. By the end both Alice and Pete’s behaviours are better understood, the outcome as complex as the circumstances all had to deal with. As grotesque as the premise may be, this is a compelling read.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Dead Ink.
Profile Image for Ian Mond.
476 reviews74 followers
June 2, 2018
I’m going to take a punt here and say that Sealed by Naomi Booth will be the most frustrating book I read all year.

There is so much about this novel I enjoyed ranging from Booth’s visceral, exquisitely grotesque prose to her social commentary on how society treats the poor and elderly. Beyond the body horror, the most disturbing aspect of the novel is how quickly those who can’t defend themselves have their basic rights stripped from them, leaving no choice but to submit to displacement camps established by the Government. The suggestion that these people are abused and indentured to possible private interests reminded me of Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. (Margaret Atwood borrowed a similar idea in her 2015 novel The Heart Goes Last). The idea persists, not surprising given the current political climate and the western world’s treatment of the disenfranchised.

So, yes, when the novel plays to its strengths – the gore, the social commentary – it’s a delight to read, which makes it all the more frustrating that Booth’s depiction of Australia is so darn lazy. Now, I’m sure Booth either visited Australia on holiday or spent a few years here or gave a draft of the novel to a bunch of Australian mates, but whatever feedback back she got both from her own experiences and those of others it doesn’t translate into her representation of the country or its people. Booth’s setting is a tourist’s narrow take on Sydney and New South Wales. Her small country town in the Blue Mountains could be located on Mars for all its similarities to a place situated on the east coast of Australia. But worse is her stereotypical, shrimp on the barbie, Crocodile Dundee portrayal of the people. We’re all racists – the word “abbo” is flung around with abandon – and we’re misogynists – all the men are objectifying arseholes. I know, I know Australia has its fair share of racists and misogynists, just look at the guys representing us in Parliament. I’m also cognisant that there’s a shift in language and a greater preponderance of Aussie slang when you leave the major cities, but Booth’s depiction lacks authenticity. It’s inconsistent in tone; the prose shifts wildly from elegant language – some of it is indeed quite beautiful – to ockerisms, regularly in the same paragraph.

If Booth were Australian, I’d still be annoyed, but the fact that she’s an outsider makes it all the more offensive. And here’s the thing there’s nothing about the story that requires it to be set in Australia. If Booth was going for a sense of isolation, I’m sure there are places in the UK or Europe that would have provided the same effect. I’m genuinely bewildered as to why she chose Australia given the inherent risk of not getting it right.

If you’re not an Aussie, you’ll likely not have the same reaction that I did. I’m sure there are some Australians that will look past the slang and the setting. (Some Aussies may even believe that Booth has nailed us). For me, though, it was a dealbreaker. I’d certainly read more by Booth just not stories set in Australia.
Profile Image for Noa.
190 reviews8 followers
December 31, 2018
This was quick and original and intensely creepy! Don't think Pete worked as a character and didn't fancy the ending, but entertaining nonetheless.
January 10, 2022
I loathed this book on so many levels that I didn't have the time to elaborate on them all .The one star I gave is for the cover of the book .As an Australian, my first question after reading only a few pages was 'has Naomi Booth ever been to Australia ? ' (the country in which the novel is set) . I doubt it. On reading a few passages out to my husband, he laughed and said "Where did she get her Australian vernacular from ? Prisoner Cell Block H ? "

The main characters in the book ,Alice and her boyfriend Pete have apparently moved from Sydney to a fictional town set in Australia’s Blue Mountains (a place Booth clearly incorrectly imagines is full of quite scary uneducated-red neck-boguns of a calibre that doesn't actually exist) . I have lived and frequented these 2 areas in all my life .The people Booth describes as living there are unbelievable and unfamiliar. The way they talk and communicate ,live and behave is something you wouldn't even find in the most remote rural red-neck, outback town (even in a pandemic) .

The conversation on page 12 between the main characters Alice and Pete and a man in a pub in the Blue Mountains is not just disgusting ,but had me spluttering my coffee into my lap with a combination of shock , disbelief and hysterical laughing . It is the most implausible piece of dialogue I have ever read in a book . I am widely traveled and I can't imagine the conversation occurring in any country anywhere ,let alone Australia. When I read this page out loud to quite a few people to test their reactions, they were at turns utterly stunned, horrified and shocked until finally snorting with derision .This type of disingenuous dialogue, which occurs throughout the novel is the key to the main flaw in Booths story ; it appears that her over-riding need is to shock in order to cover and divert from the gaping holes in her plot , rather than to impress with genuinely skilled writing .Given the amount of 4 and 5 stars this book received I can only presume that less discerning readers were impressed by her shock and awe technique and were as unfamiliar with Australia as the author.

The glaring errors flow forth on every page ,destroying the integrity of the entire story .Some mistakes are too huge to swallow (and any good story has to be believable; even a fantasy )and some mistakes are laugh out loud stupid . Even the small errors take on gigantic proportion because there are so many of them. She is totally unfamiliar with the Flora and Fauna and describes ludicicrous scenarious such as seeing a family of red foxes hiding in a swathe of red bottle-brush in the city ! Most Australians never see a fox in their entire lives ,but even if you did,there is no hiding place in a bottle-brush for one fox let alone 5 ! Nor is the Jacaranda a "bush" and absolutely nobody would buy gum trees and go home and plant them in pots because they can't and will not grow that way (Their root systems are massive even when tiny).

As if to divert from these glaring errors that I suspect the Author knew she had to be making (She has to have been aware of her own ignorance ,so perhaps she hoped Australians wouldn't read her book ), Booth pads out her story with a lot of irrelevant and gratuitously nauseating and gory memories experienced by Alice (scenarios which I looked for and then found on youtube, where I presume Booth searched for inspiration) . This too often strategy used to divert from poor story telling did not work for me, it grated. Even in an an imagined Dystopia ,had Booth added her own lived experiences it would have added both depth and plausibility to the story. Instead it forced me to suspend my disbelief a step too far and created gaping hollows in which her story crumbled.

It isn't just the dialogue and behaviour that is ludicrous ,but much of the vernacular Booth uses is entirely un-Australian and having lived in England for 3 years and being married to an Englishman I can confirm much of it comes from her country of origin. To hide her unfamiliarity with the way Australians actually speak she throws in a lot of words she imagines Australians use all the time like "bugger" and "beaut" and the "C" word ....but worse she makes constant offensive and truly horrible casual racist references to Indigenous Australians while calling them "Abo's" . Booth even uses the term "black fella" ;a term that hasn't been used since the 1940's ! I'm not saying there isn't racism in Australia and if Booth had restricted the racism to a few characters it might have been acceptable ,but Booth would have you believe that it is endemic and it isn't .

No Australian would EVER use terms like:- "Giddy Boy", or "No ta " (it took me a few minutes to work out "no ta" meant "no thank you")or "Face like a smacked arse"(a term used in Ireland and the North of England and even when I was in England I only heard it said about 3 times in 3 years) , or refer to a young woman's, young husband as "her old man" .

The fact is Booth would have written a much better book if she had set her story in territory she knew. I suppose people unfamiliar with Australia won't realize how weirdly wrong and off kilter her book portrays this part of Australia ,but as an Australian I felt hugely annoyed....and unusually for me , I felt a weird sort of anger at her portrayal of every Australian in her novel as rough, crude, mean , stupid and brutish. Even Alice, the character you are supposed to like has only a few redeeming features. Everyone else is not just awful ,but an awful parody of some already outdated cliche.

On turning to the last page of the book I discovered that Booth was born and raised in West Yorkshire and now lives in York and I have to wonder why she chose to set her book in a place she clearly knows almost nothing about. The first annoying thing about "Sealed" was the tense. Booth begins the telling of the story on the first page from a point well into the future and speaking deep in the past tense ,well past the events that happen in the book . However on the second page and still in the same initial second paragraph ,she suddenly slips into the present tense and stays there as if she had forgotten how she started. The book then remains in the present tense and only delves backward into the past from that present point. Her promising beginning is lost and none of the editors or publishers even noticed this massive slip-up.

Booth also throws around the names of native flora and fauna in a desperate attempt to convince her reader that she knows her subject matter. When she describes someone laying in the grass "as if brown snakes and redback spiders weren't a thing" I had to laugh. For one thing redback spiders are NEVER in the grass and they don't wander or roam . They spend their entire adult life in the same place (in cracks and crevices) and the babies only move a tiny bit away from where they were born which is why you find huge clusters of them in the same place .The places you would find redback spiders are in outdoor toilets , abandoned children's toys in unused sandpits , under the rims of buckets , in pipes and hiding in your B.B.Q ! I am always in the bush and even lived on a farm for several years and have hardly ever seen a brown snake ; maybe 4 in total ,in my entire life.

The story is ludicrous .Absolutely nothing is believable. No event holds water and the decisions people make and the relationships people have with each other beggars belief. Even the Pandemic itself is full of plot holes (a little more science would have been useful ).I can't divulge more without "spoilers" ,but in summation I really only forced myself to finish the book so I could write this review. As I inferred earlier , if Booth had set her book in Yorkshire in familiar territory she may have written something great . Some of her ideas are good...but sadly most of them are not and setting her book in Australia was the worst idea of all .
Profile Image for Spencer.
1,413 reviews34 followers
March 31, 2022
Sealed is a stressful, anxiety ridden book, it’s set in a world where a new disease sweeps across the world, this epidemic seals people up and turns their own skin against them. Alice, the main character is pregnant and paranoid, and after her mental health takes a nosedive, she and her partner Pete move to the countryside in an effort to escape their worries.

This book slowly builds with unease as the birth draws near, it effectively gets across the terror and worries of a pregnant woman, and you quickly empathise with Alice. Some of the characters decisions are pretty dumb and that took me out of the book a bit, but other than that I really enjoyed the writing and was gripped throughout.

Sealed is a unique book that feels surprisingly relevant right now, I really enjoyed it and would totally recommend it!
Profile Image for Stephanie.
81 reviews1 follower
January 2, 2022
The last quarter just enthralled me! I could not put it down. The MCs obsession with a unpreventable disease - following the news, seeing signs of it everywhere, constantly on the run to avoid it - and her incredulity that the people around her are unconcerned, was so recognizable to me. The author masterly builds suspense throughout and the ending is a satisfying release. Fair warning - there is a lot of body horror throughout.
Profile Image for Victor.
76 reviews4 followers
June 10, 2021
This book reminded me of another book (The End We Start From) that I read recently about the experiences of a pregnant woman based during a time when the earth is not as we know it. I think Sealed did a better job with this plot though and I enjoyed it much more; it probably also helped that it was longer and so the author had more time to develop the story.

I liked how the author vividly portrayed the situation the main characters found themselves in and the challenges they faced trying to navigate this strange new world. The ending was bittersweet but hopeful.

Also, a more accurate score for this book would be a 3.5.
Profile Image for Marjolijn van de Gender.
95 reviews17 followers
December 29, 2019
Ik weet niet zo goed wat ik over dit boek moet zeggen. Aan de ene kant is het heel smerig, bloederig en eng, maar aan de andere kant vind ik het ook net te oppervlakkig. Grofweg gaat het verhaal over een niet zo optimistische toekomst. Curtis, een ziekte waarbij een soort spinragachtige huid het lichaam 'opsluit', speelt een grote rol. De hoofdpersoon, Alice, is zwanger en lijkt paranoïde - of is dat wat de andere personages, vooral mannen, ervan maken?

Het boek is spannend en de thema's en de links met het heden zijn fascinerend. Ik hou wel van bloed en schokkende scènes - en die krijgen we genoeg, mijn god, de finale van dit boek - maar het is eigenlijk de bedoeling dat een verhaal ook geloofwaardig blijft als je erover gaat nadenken. Hier en daar miste ik achtergrond bij gebeurtenissen, of bleef ik achter met de vraag waarom iets gebeurde of waarom een personage op een onlogische manier handelde. Ik zat nooit helemaal in de wereld van Alice, waardoor er ook de ruimte was voor mij om te twijfelen aan de geloofwaardigheid van het verhaal.

Toch zijn de gedachten van Alice wel sterk in dit boek. Haar angsten worden ook de angsten van de lezer. De zwangerschap is benauwender dan Curtis. Dat leest heel oncomfortabel en dat is meteen het sterkste punt van dit boek. De laatste pagina's van het boek zijn bizar. Fantastische anticonceptie, dat wel.
Profile Image for Aoife.
1,246 reviews538 followers
January 15, 2021
3.5 stars.

CW: Mild body horror, racial slurs against Aboriginal people, traumatic birth scene

Alice is heavily pregnant when she lets her boyfriend Pete convince her to move out to the Australian bush, and away from the ever stressful city. A rare condition called cutis has sprung up, which literally means someone's skin begins to seal over any orifice in the body - in the worst cases, people have died suffocated by their own skin. Alice has become obsessed with the illness, and inherently scared of anything that could cause harm to her body - be it the fear of the disease or chemicals from the plastic wrapped around food.

As the story progresses, Alice narrates her life in the Australian bush and the ever present feeling that something is wrong. However, as readers we can't tell if someone is actually wrong or is it Alice's obsessive fears making everything scarier than it really is. Are the evacuation orders really because of wildfires, or is it because of the dangerous skin-sealing disease?

Nothing really happens in this book, and for people really hoping for something short and snappy, the pacing of this book might not be 100% what you're looking for - despite the book itself being rather short. The book is slightly meandering as Alice flashes back and forth from her present to her childhood, and her relationships with both her mother and Pete. It once would have been hard to sympathise with Alice over her obsessive fear about cutis as she shares stories online, and freaks out about the smallest things yet we have been living in a pandemic for a year now so it's easy to see how such fear-mongering can happen - and how people can become crazy conspiracy theorists (5g anyone?).

There was interesting commentary in this book as well in how the Australian state treated displaced people, as well as people from the Aboriginal community. I'm not versed on some racial slurs used against this minority but I'm pretty sure there were characters who used some bad language when talking about this community (not the character herself who was a social welfare worker, and strived to help displaced peoples and minority communities).

The relationship between Alice and her unborn child is an odd one - as there's very little connection there or it seems at times that Alice is very distant from the child she's about to birth. Sometimes it's like she forgets there's even a life inside of her that's soon going to be out and depending on her.

There's some mild body horror in this, but I didn't find anything too bad until I was making lunch and Alice recalled the smell of an infected ear piercing - that was nice. So I wouldn't recommend this for meal times.

The birth scene in this book was as horrific and terrifying as you could imagine it might be, and all of Alice's fears are heightened to a point where it's hard to know what exactly is going. I've seen some reviews calling Alice silly and/or stupid for not recognising some elements of her pregnancy/birth but I took some of the lengths her mind takes her in her fear (which is due to a series of events that day) to be that - her fear playing mind tricks. So despite the horror of the scene, I enjoyed the intensity of the book.

The whole short novel delivered a great atmosphere and a heightening tension. There was always that uneasy feeling of things being wrong but not knowing what and the feeling that something was out there, just waiting.
Profile Image for Callum McLaughlin.
Author 4 books83 followers
May 10, 2021
Sealed is the kind of speculative fiction that is at once both highly allegorical and frighteningly plausible. This is testament to Booth’s ability to ground her thematic intent within a compelling narrative.

Set in the near future, global warming has resulted in an increasingly toxic atmosphere and the rapid spreading of wildfires. With news circulating about a deadly infection that causes your skin to seal itself into one homogenous mass (fusing shut your eyes, mouth, etc.), heavily pregnant Alice and her partner Pete decide to leave the city for the comparable safety of the countryside. But Alice is haunted by her mother’s recent death and her mounting paranoia; and it soon appears their rural “escape” may not be as safe as they hoped.

Booth uses this brilliant yet disturbing setup as an in to explore the potential horrors of pregnancy and birth; the alien sensations taking place in Alice’s body almost as unnerving to her as the thought of contracting the infection itself. At its core, the novel is a commentary on our fear of losing control and becoming prisoners within our own bodies. There is also a more subtle though well-handled look at the idea of female “hysteria”; the dismissal of women’s concerns when it comes to science, medicine, and even their own bodies.

On a more direct narrative level, there is such a cloying atmosphere throughout, perfectly encapsulating the balmy heat and claustrophobic tension felt by Alice. It can’t be denied that reading a book set on the cusp of a pandemic during covid times added another layer of resonance (and believability) to certain aspects of the story, particularly the government response, attempts to downplay the severity of the situation, and the exploitation and disproportionate suffering of poor communities.

I think Booth gave enough hints as to the possible nature and origin of the infection to make it genuinely frightening, while still embracing a level of ambiguity befitting of the characters’ bewilderment. The climax, though largely predictable, takes on an almost fever dream quality that also really works, with a few key tableaus that I suspect will stick with me. Somewhat less successful is the pacing, which lags at times due to an indulgence of unnecessary tangents.

Though this wasn’t the new favourite I hoped it would be, I found it smart and unsettling in equal measure. It has certainly made me eager to check out more of Booth’s work.
Profile Image for Aaron  Lindsey.
494 reviews10 followers
December 29, 2021
Horror from Down Under! As an American, I loved reading this book because of the difference in slang and sayings. But as a horror novel fan, I loved it because it is full of plain ol' good frights!
It's the story of a young couple who are expecting their first child. There's a strange plague (cutis) going through the city so they buy a house in the country to escape the danger. Only, since the bought the house unseen from an online seller, they find themselves in more kinds of danger than you can shake a stick at!
Lots of fun and scary nightmarish writing in this one!
Profile Image for Di.
170 reviews11 followers
April 28, 2021
Just okay. For the most part, i do not like the characters but the last 10% of the book breaks my heart. But if not for it, this is more like a 2 star read.
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