Avalanche: a Love Story

by Julia Leigh, Faber and Faber, £12.99

This affecting memoir could only be written in the modern age. Indeed, you could call it a parable on the sorrows of contemporary women. The author explains that she first visited an IVF clinic in February 2008, aged 38, with Paul, whom she had met when she was 19. This scenario is all too easy to imagine: boy meets girl at college; they live together on and off for years, not ready to “settle down”. By the time she has moved to early middle age the woman realises she wants a husband and children before it is too late.

In Julia’s case the word “avalanche” in the title accurately describes the overwhelming nature of the medical interventions that followed her first visit to the fertility clinic. There were more experimental treatments costing more money. Her boyfriend (they married that year) also needed a reverse vasectomy.

She reveals that she had two abortions in her 20s. She comes to realises that the IVF industry is “predicated on failure”. Nonetheless, “I was desperate.” It is only when she is aged 39 that Julia begins to understand that “sex” is linked to “procreation”.

Not wanting to give up her career despite wanting children, Julia and her husband experience tensions. They separate, then divorce: “We agreed that we were to irrevocably part. He would allow me to use his frozen sperm.”

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