Book review: Claiming Noah by Amanda Ortlepp

Thursday, February 26, 2015 Permalink

I don’t talk a lot (here) about my foray into fertility treatment, IVF and the like. I have close friends who have also gone through prolonged and rigorous procedures. Some with happy endings and some (like yours truly), not so happily-ever-after. I know therefore it is a subject fraught with emotion. Sanity is sometimes swept aside without us realising.

It’s brave then, that former marketing professional Amanda Ortlepp delves into the tricky and fertile (sorry!!!) world of embryo adoption in her debut novel, Claiming Noah.

Catriona and James have undergone a number of unsuccessful rounds of IVF when they fall pregnant. Reticent to ‘waste’ their remaining embryo they anonymously donate it so another couple has a chance to share in their good fortune.

Across town ( 😕 ) Diana and Liam are on the waiting list for an embryo—despite opposition from Diana’s Catholic mother and her priest over (what they see as) the moral issue of embryo adoption. Fortunately the couple don’t have to wait long and Diana’s soon the mother of the placid and delightful Noah.

Back across town (okay, I’ll stop now!) Catriona’s given birth to somewhat-grizzly Sebastian and struggling with a rare condition called postpartum psychosis which can result in a mother harming herself or her child. After a particularly harrowing experience Catriona seeks help for her condition before eventually returning home to try to bond with her baby.


Two babies born only a month apart and with no other players introduced into the mix, it’s not hard to jump to conclusions when Noah’s snatched from his pram.

What follows however, is far from predictable or formulaic. Rather we’re presented with a complex ethical problem. Of sorts. I mean, in my little mind it was mostly a no-brainer… but I can understand the predicament of all involved and it’s obvious there will be no winners.

Complicating things for readers are of course the players themselves. Catriona is portrayed as career-focused and (almost reluctantly) acquiescing to James’ desire to have a family. And while Diana’s desperate to be a mother, Liam’s incredibly disengaged from the whole process and really quite unlikeable. And then there’s James’ childhood friend Spencer, recently released from jail and staying with the couple; furtive with James while flirting with Catriona.

It’s almost impossible—while reading this novel— not to have an opinion. Or three. On one hand we have the legal system and its version of right and wrong. Then, led by our hearts and emotions, we feel a strong sense of compassion. And finally (well in my case) there’s our gut and what we WANT to happen.

It’s a thought-provoking debut by Ortlepp. I felt the writing was a teensy bit clunky at times (breaking the show-don’t-tell rule early in the novel during the scene-setting phase), but the complexity of the plot and depth of the characters make this a great read.

Claiming Noah by Amanda Ortlepp, published by Simon & Schuster Australia will be released on 1 March 2015.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 

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