Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Monday, 27 February 2012

Cells - Harriet Grace

'She looked for the cells in the ripples of water, black shapes darting away in the sunlight, joining up, dividing...'

Martha Morgan is the features editor on 'The Chronicle' newspaper in London. It's a fast paced working environment. Her partner Grant is a psychoanalyst. They both have successful professional lives, they have a lovely home, but they have been trying to have a baby, without success, even after undergoing IVF treatment. They are 'one of the ten per cent of couples who have unexplained infertility.' The novel is written with alternate chapters giving us an insight into the lives of Martha, Grant, and of a third person, Jon, who works in Martha's office, as part of the mail and communications team, essentially as a messenger. The novel lets us into the minds and everyday lives of these three people, both when they are alone and when they interact with each other. We are privy to their doubt-riddled introspection. 

Martha isn't certain she even wants a baby at times, but she is frustrated at not being able to have one. We learn that Martha 'became obsessed' during the IVF treatment, and 'everywhere she saw twisting umbilical cords with no babies on the end of them.' Martha receives counselling after the failed treatment, and the idea of donor insemination is introduced. Martha seems drawn to Jon instinctively, as if he could somehow be an answer to her problems. She offers him Grant's old computer, and he comes to their house to be shown how to work it. The two men each derive something from their meetings; Jon sees Grant as a someone to talk to about his life, so that the relationship alsost becomes one of Doctor and patient, whilst Grant can see how much Jon is opening up to him, but he then becomes uneasy at this, thinking 'they had got too close'. Jon seems a very naive person at first, and comes across as scared when with women, nervous about the possibility of intimacy and a relationship. In fact he is very lonely and a bit of a misfit. He begins a relationship with a woman he meets who works in a shop when he is out and about one weekend. The way he thinks about her shows his inexperience, his fear of not being accepted. He seems obssessed with her. 

The relationships between Martha, Grant and Jon, and each of their respective sets of parents is also explored. Martha has unsettling flashbacks to times with her depressed father, remembering the closeness shared between her brother and her mother. Grant felt shut out by his mother and his sister Lani, he feels he has something to prove to them both. His mother becomes very ill and he returns to the USA to be with her, and spends time whilst there thinking back over his relationships with them both. Jon visits his parents and the tension between him and his father is palpable, yet his mother seems to have changed and this confuses him. The author successfully conveys how each of them has been shaped to an extent by their childhoods. 

There is a lot going on for these three people; we see what is happening in their lives, and what is going on under the surface. At first I found all three characters rather unsympathetic, and it took a while for me to become involved in the story and to warm to them more. The story developed in unforeseen ways, and I did grow to care about these people and wonder what direction their lives would take now. The ending is rather open to an extent. It left me pondering, what would they all do now? This is an intriguing portrait of three people each at difficult points in their lives, struggling with their inner feelings, wondering what direction to take, when their lives become entwined and the consequences of this. I enjoyed having the three different perspectives to read; three very different, interesting voices. The author writes intelligently about the effects of the past on people, and successfully conveys all the emotion, anxiety and insecurities that these people are battling with inside. A fascinating read. 


Thank you very much to the publisher for sending me a copy of the novel to read and give an honest review.

'Cells' is published by SilverWood Books and available now in paperback and e-book formats.

Visit Harriet's website to find out more. Harriet is part of loveahappyending, supporting new authors.



  1. Lovely review Lindsay and, as you say, lots of emotions for this sensitive subject. Can't wait to read it myself!

  2. Thanks Linn, hope you find it an interesting read too.


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