Book Review: “Dead Babies and Seaside Towns” – A personal memoir by Alice Jolly

Dead Babies and Seaside Towns

A valuable, rewarding read

This book left a lasting impression on me for many reasons.  Firstly, unlike the author herself, I had no doubt it would be beautifully composed when I checked Alice Jolly’s credentials on the book jacket: novelist, article writer for national newspapers, playwright and creative writing teacher.  But I was more than impressed with her elegant handling of such a personal, painful subject which she tells us only came about because her lawyer needed a chronological account of what she had been through; a task she admits she found difficult because the realities of life aren’t “ordered”.

Secondly, at the beginning of each chapter, appears a photograph from the family’s own collection with a quotation below, which made me pause and identify with the observations and emotions Ms Jolly imparts so meaningfully, without syrupy sentimentality. “There is no foot too small that it cannot leave an imprint on the world.”

Thirdly, the coincidences and shared terms of reference between myself and this author seemed to compel me to overcome my initial worry about the title and trust I would be buying a satisfying, moving read. Then I realised her married name is my birth name and, if a book speaks to you personally, well this one was telling me I’d been chosen. I enjoyed visiting familiar locations through her eyes and connected with the issues of infant loss, surrogacy and adoption which probably haven’t been written about as eloquently before.  I was charmed by her little son, Thomas, who lost the sister he’d been waiting for, enraged by the ignorant therapist who clearly had no idea of the unique loss a stillbirth surely is and frustrated for Alice Jolly herself as she searched for a way to add to her family.

“The world of dead babies is a silent and shuttered place.”

For anyone who has experienced, directly or indirectly, difficulties having a family, this is a valuable read.  For everyone else, there is much to be gained from reading it.  As Alice tells us: “The world of dead babies is a silent and shuttered place.  You do not know it exists until you find yourself there.”

Finally, the publisher of this book, Unbound, operates a very different way of publishing through crowdfunding, meaning authors write what they want to write and readers get to support writers by directly funding the books they want to be published. In my view, that’s an admirable idea.


All the Stars