Alina and Laura are independent and career-driven women in their mid-thirties, neither of whom have built their future around the prospect of a family. Laura is so determined not to become a mother that she has taken the drastic decision to have her tubes tied. But when she announces this to her friend, she learns that Alina has made the opposite decision and is preparing to have a child of her own. Alina's pregnancy shakes the women's lives, first creating distance and then a remarkable closeness between them. When Alina's daughter survives childbirth - after a diagnosis that predicted the opposite - and Laura becomes attached to her neighbor's son, both women are forced to reckon with the complexity of their emotions, their needs, and the needs of the people who are dependent upon them.
Nettel, whose earlier work has at times veered toward the phantasmagoric, is all the more haunting here for her vivid realism. Still Born, translated by Rosalind Harvey, is a heart-racingly intense journey.
Fascinating ... Nettel fashions Laura as a unique and confounding narrator, with a voice that’s both judgmental and hyper-perceptive, perfect for delving into the reversals and contradictions of the story.
One of the welcome surprises of Still Born, however, is how quickly it swerves away from Laura’s anti-natalist campaigning, as if Laura, too, wanted out of her own head and into a broader web of experience ... Her story grows more polyphonic, less fixed and binary in its assumptions about care work and family-making.