Readers have complained, as I have, that most novels about childless women end happily but unrealistically with a surprise pregnancy or adoption. They don’t show what it’s like when the dream of motherhood never comes true. I will admit straight out that the author sent this book to me in the hope I would include it on my site. If it didn’t work for me, I wouldn’t include it, free book or not. It does, so here it is. Note that the publisher is in Australia, so finding a copy may take some hunting.
Swimming by Enza Gandolfo
Vanark Press, Victoria, Australia, 2009
Kate didn’t think she wanted children, but in her 30s, she changed her mind. Her husband Tom, a sculptor, didn’t care much for kids but was willing to go along to make her happy. Unfortunately, her body didn’t cooperate. After four miscarriages, as she moved into perimenopause, she gave up trying.
This is one of the few novels I have read that deals realistically with the pain of childlessness. Childless readers will recognize the obnoxious questions people ask and the left-out feeling as one’s friends devote themselves to their children. Kate also suffers through a divorce and struggles to find her place in the world. If she is not a mother, what is her role?
The novel has two main threads, Kate as she is now and the novel she is supposedly writing about the child she might have had. The latter tells us the story of her life, and I honestly disliked the breaks where she dithered over her writing project, but the stories come together in the end, and it did turn out to be a very engaging novel with characters so true I halfway expect to meet them on the street.
This book grew out of Gandolfo’s PhD thesis. A lecturer in Professional Writing at the School of Communication and the Arts at Victoria University, Gandolfo lives in Melbourne.