Joanna Kavenna: The Birth of Love


The latest addition to my website is Joanna Kavenna‘s . This is a novel about childbirth. There are four separate but linked stories about childbirth. The first is set in 1865 and is about Ignaz Semmelweis who discovered the link between infection and the death of women in childbirth. He went mad and, in this story, we follow his last days, as a man called Robert von Lucius interviews him in a mental asylum. The second and third stories are set in the present day. In the first we follow a forty-one year old woman who is pregnant with her second child. The baby is two weeks overdue. We follow what happens between the contractions starting and the birth. We also follow the story of a fifty-three year old novelist who has written a novel (his first one published) on Semmelweis. The final story is set in 2153 when all births have to be in vitro rather than in utero but one woman has managed to get pregnant the old-fashioned way and a group of people try to save her and her baby. They have been caught and we follow their interrogations. It is an interesting idea but, apart from the Semmelweis story, it all seems somewhat conventional. As the novelist’s agent (a woman) says, men are not interested in novels on childbirth. I do not think that that is so in my case but this one did not quite work for me. Kavenna is one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists.

Leave a Reply