I love that there are more and more books being published with motherhood at their core. Dark Lullaby joins the ranks of Q, The Mother Fault and The Farm, imagining a dark future of suffocating control over women’s reproduction and parenting.
The catalyst in Dark Lullaby is a dramatic rise in infertility, to 98% of the population. It’s not the first novel to deal with such a future scenario, following in the footsteps of P.D. James’ The Children of Men and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
Author Ho-Yen imagines a world where women are pressured to go through ‘induction’ – a process similar to IVF but which can cause serious illness and maternal death – and are monitored throughout the pregnancy and early childhood to make sure they’re doing everything correctly. Even minor transgressions are met with a state-issued formal warning. Too many warnings, particularly in the first year of a child’s life, and the baby will be ‘extracted’ – that is, taken away to be raised in the compounds where it can be cared for ‘properly’.
Perhaps most concerning, to me, was that I didn’t find it particularly surprising. Having birthed and raised two small children myself, level of monitoring and critique – both external and self-imposed – is enormous. It’s not as formalised as in Dark Lullaby (nobody will knock on your door and issue you a warning for feeding your baby formula without permission) but the scrutiny and the pressure to do everything ‘right’ is certainly there.
For me, Dark Lullaby was an enjoyable read but felt a little predictable, although this is quite possibly simply because I’ve read so many similar books. It’s well written, very plausible and an important conversation to have. Parents need to be responsible and accountable – that’s a given – but how far should the state go to ensure this happens?