Brief Book Review: Bed Rest by Sarah Bilston

Bed Rest

Chick-lit is without a doubt the most scorned of genres. As a big reader, with a love for all genres (with the exception of erotic romance- think Mills and Boons. I just can’t find it interesting), I sometimes wonder why.

Sure, some chick-lit is simply awful. Think shallow, immature and unbelievably, well, dumb protagonists and you will be at the heart of the problem with a lot of chick-lit. Chick-lit like that loses the brownie points the genre stands to gain by being realistic. Women, when reading a good chick-lit book, should be able to relate to the characters. After all, it’s a genre written, mostly, by women for women. If women read it and find themselves angrily thinking the main character is ridiculous and questioning if other women are really like that? All the author has achieved is alienation of their audience.

On the other hand some chick-lit is quite good and what bothers me is that the good stuff is often written off as crap because of the bad. When browsing the book reviews for chick-lit titles so many of them begin ‘I don’t usually read chick-lit’ with a note about how the writer of the review is a Serious Reader (why such shame at picking up a chick-lit title?) They then either go on to trash the book (warranted, in some cases) or else write about how surprised they were to have enjoyed it.

I used to love chick-lit in my early teenage years, along with horror, suspense & mystery, fantasy and anything published as a penguin classic. These days my appreciation for fantasy and chick-lit has waned. I am not a literary snob, though. If someone gives me a pile of books (as my brilliant Grandma often does) I will read them, regardless of their genre. A book is a book is a book…

I think the scorn poured on chick-lit is, in some ways, just another socially accepted form of sexism but that is another topic for another time.

The book I am reviewing today is Bed Rest by Sarah Bilston.

Quinn “Q” Boothroyd is a young British lawyer married to an American and living in New York City. She’s checked off most of the boxes on her “Modern Woman’s List of Things to Do Before Hitting 30,” and her busy working life has been relatively painless. But when her doctor tells her she must spend the last three months of her pregnancy lying in bed, Q is thrown into a tailspin. Initially bored and frustrated, Q soon fills her days by trying to reconnect with her workaholic husband, provide legal advice for her sweet Greek neighbor, forge new emotional bonds with her mother and sisters, and figure out who will keep her stocked up in cookies and sandwiches. Q experiences adventures on the couch she never would have encountered in the law firm and learns a lot about herself and what she wants out of life—and above all, about the little one growing inside her.

On the cover there is praise for this book saying ‘even if you have never been pregnant you’ll be as instantly hooked on this addictive novel as I was.’ I’m thinking you’d be hooked especially if you had never been pregnant because the protagonist’s reaction to learning her amniotic fluid is low is not the teensiest bit realistic.

‘Amni-what?’ is her first thought. The first person narration then goes on to explain in depth how she had no clue what this meant, or what it even was.

Not realistic. Not realistic at all.

Q, the protagonist, is supposed to be an almost-30 year old lawyer who is pedantic about recording everything and making lists and so on. Basically, she seems like the kind of person who would have researched this whole pregnancy thing and not the kind of person who…well, I can’t even think of a comparison. Having had a child myself, trust me, if you are pregnant you tend to want to learn as much about pregnancy as you can. You definitely know what amniotic fluid is. She also doesn’t do any baby shopping until five weeks before the child is due and at no point are there discussions about baby names. The book skims over many of the milestones you would expect from a book in which the main focus is the protagonist’s pregnancy.

The remaining plot-points were dull. They were clichéd and the majority of readers would see the ‘surprising twists’ coming a mile away.

However, there were some funny parts, the voice was engaging and the protagonist was likeable. There were also some really good lines within the novel. Some even, I must admit, that I was surprised to find in a chick-lit novel that revolves around pregnancy and relationships.

In the darkness I listen to his heartbeat…In the darkness he listens to my heartbeat.

You could almost imagine its summer- until; you see the thin, stripped trees along the street, the pallid fawn sunshine, the pedestrians muffled up in furry coats and downy jackets.

I’ve always regarded mine with some bewilderment, its mysterious activities, its dark places where the blood flows close to the surface.

Crack open Sylvia Plath’s Ariel when life seems too hard to bear. It’s always good to discover that someone else has been closer to the screaming edge than you are.

A pause, a brief moment of silence, and then a cry to make a mother’s heart dissolve.

Whilst I would not recommend this book to anyone I know, I did enjoy certain parts of it and I do believe it would be enjoyed by readers who like this genre.