OLIVE – EMMA GANNON

#LizzieReads

This is a story which raises awareness in a comforting way so everyone can understand that:

Women don’t have to have children

Women don’t have to want children

It is a beautifully written, considerate novel which I believe is a depiction of Gannon’s experience of maybe not wanting to have children and telling it through Olive’s perspective. Well known for her podcast, Ctrl Alt Delete, Emma Gannon cumulates the thoughts and experiences of women choosing not to have children (and maybe have a dog instead, like me!), along with their experiences of motherhood and relationships.

From what I gathered of research and the blurb, Olive appears to be a depiction of Gannon’s experience and feelings towards motherhood and choosing not to pursue it, despite society’s expectations that all women do. I didn’t realise this was one of the books I needed to read, partly down to opening myself up to more blogs, podcasts and discussions about taboo subjects including mental health and motherhood. Honestly, it feels elating to find a read that encompasses many of my feelings; it’s okay to admit that you know what, maybe I don’t want children; I don’t have to fulfil the expectations placed upon women to have a successful career and family. It’s mind boggling that one is actually allowed to think that: yes, we don’t have to want that!

It reminds me a little of Sex and the City: four friends across London and Surrey at different stages of motherhood: trying to conceive, awaiting birth, married with children and watching the formers from afar.

I understand Olive can be an unlikeable character who comes across as selfish, however she is unashamedly and most importantly, honest. Olive has understanding friends and family and isn’t afraid to admit she wants to prioritise her career as a writer for .dot magazine.

For once, I quite liked that the novel didn’t focus on a pure love story, instead choosing to focus on Olive and Olive alone (as the title would suggest). It focuses on her trying to balance friendships along with staying true to herself and her career.

I liked how Olive flicks between growing up with her girlfriends since uni, to living together and becoming women, to finding out they’re pregnant (and not). Whilst the novel remains witty and funny, its honest undertone is present throughout, with real-life quotes at the beginning of each chapter from women and their experiences of not wanting to having children. There is the common phrase of believing “you’ll change your mind” if you don’t want a baby – I used to be someone that said this, but upon reflection, it makes me reconsider that people can quite rightly choose their own path. Think about it, we don’t say that to people who do want a baby – let’s be a bit more sensitive, me included.

The writing isn’t quite a 5 out of 5 to me as it seems feelings could’ve been implied at times, however this does not intrude on my love for the novel!

I chuckled when Olive attends a private CFBC (Child Free by Choice) event whilst undercover for .dot, where women sharing similar feelings of not wanting children come together, accompanied by her happily married friend (with children) and gay colleague.

The prospect of a baby is daunting and Olive highlights many of the things I feel, and am sure others do, but don’t realise they may be feeling it, nor do they give themselves permission to.

No sleep, no money, strain on your relationship, stress, risk of mental health issues and it ‘ruins’ your body (this is a sensitive issue for some people, including ones like me with body dysmorphia) amongst a few reasons.

On the other hand, there is the thought of being alone when older and other friends being surrounded by their children that makes me feel quite sombre.

Millennials and following generations’ experiences are expressed through the women, revealing why they do not want to bring a child into the world: risks of them being exposed to pornography before secondary school; dangers of privacy and information; a collapsing environment; and the fact is seems like the world is becoming a sour place to live in.

“I don’t want to bring someone into this horrible shallow world, with all this data hacking, privacy issues, trolls, robots!”

There is no handbook on how to handle social media, so I give credit to parents now who are navigating their way through it!

Gannon cleverly addresses themes of motherhood, friendships and self-happiness first, along with themes of loneliness. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and feel a little restored in the fact I do not have to think nor want what is expected of me and my generation.

Rating – 4.5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Genre – fiction, domestic fiction, comedy, bildungsroman

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