Book Review – Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens.

Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens.
Published 7th July by Atlantic Books.
ISBN-13: 978-1782399797.
Available to buy from Amazon UK // Amazon US.

Eleven Hours is a visceral, vital, microcosmic illumination of the most pivotal moment of any woman’s life: giving birth. With taut, sensitive prose, Erens explores the lives of two women in New York – one in labour, the other her Haitian midwife – to gracefully reveal the seminal moments that have led them to meet here, now, during childbirth.
With this riveting, insightful and sometimes harrowing novel, Erens cements herself as one of modern fiction’s most diverse and discerning authors.’

Thank you to Atlantic Books for giving me a copy of this book in return for my honest opinion.

As soon as I saw the cover of the book, I knew I just had to read it. As a mother myself, I wanted to read about other people’s experiences, find out about labour from another aspect as opposed to being the one IN labour. After reading a couple of pages, it soon dawned on me that this book wasn’t going to be a typical ‘in labour’ type book. Definitely not along the same lines of ‘One Born Every Minute’. Coming to that realisation wasn’t a bad thing, but it certainly tested my concentration skills as the storyline is very deep and complex. ‘Eleven Hours’ isn’t the sort of book you can read expecting the story to talk to you all the time, you have to tune into the characters and circumstances just as much. If you’re not used to doing that, it can be quite a quite an intricate way of reading.

When it comes to giving birth and everything leading up to it, it’s not straightforward as many of you are aware. There are the birth plans detailing how the mother-to-be wishes things to be carried out. But what Pamela Erens mentions in the story is that when you have a woman from a different culture, the birth plan then becomes even more complex. Keep that in mind but then add a midwife from another culture. A midwife who has seen a lot of births and tragedies (for both the mother AND the child). Certain things are frowned upon in various cultures, so every mother-to-be that walked into the hospital within the book, had their own stories to tell.

Before reading ‘Eleven Hours’, I was unaware of how complex giving birth was in different countries, what things couldn’t be done, and what limited things could be done. Many times I felt like I was walking the hospital corridor with both of the women featured in the book. It was such an eye-opening experience and written with copious amounts of emotion that it even brought back my labour with my daughter. Not that I had forgotten it mind you.

I had my fingers crossed that the birth would be okay, no complications and that both mother and baby would be perfect; tired, but perfect. However, I was so hopeful that it tuned into my emotions and I began to cry. Motherly instinct I guess.

Pamela Erens has written such a deep and meaningful story that switches between the lives of two completely different women and their individual circumstances. Yes, the book made me think, and sometimes I found it quite difficult to keep track of what was going on. I didn’t want to give up on the book though, I had to find out how it ended. Pamela Erens had me captivated with the storyline and by the end of the book I was emotionally drained from walking the same journey as the two ladies.
Powerful and poignant from start to finish, a book that I will always remember for multiple reasons. Mind blowing.

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