Trying by Emily Phillips
Opening sentence: “‘Maybe we should try some porn?’ I say lightly into my husband’s exasperated face.”
This is the debut novel by Grazia magazine’s Features Director, Emily Phillips. She has been open about her struggle to conceive a baby and, as she put it: “to channel my emotions, I wrote a book, processing the years of dismay into a comedy called Trying.”
In Trying we meet Olivia and Felix – a married couple in their early 30s who want a baby. However, they’ve been trying for over 18 months and the pressure is getting to them. They use apps to calculate Olivia’s most fertile days and have sex with military precision (which takes the fun out of it somewhat) in their attempt to get pregnant. They have successful, but stressful careers (Olivia is a marketing manager at a very on-trend Swedish company, HYGGE, and Felix is a football agent) and coupled with family commitments and friends that seemingly pop out babies with ease, they soon find that life in general is making things difficult for them and their relationship is taking the hit. In Olivia’s case, added stress comes in the form of her gorgeous Scandinavian boss that she’s finding hard to resist…
I am currently on maternity leave, making this is a very topical book for me right now. It actually made me realise how lucky I am and gave me an insight into the realities of not being able to conceive a child. It delicately portrays the anguish of a couple who desperately want a baby and what this struggle can do to an otherwise strong relationship. It also looks at other issues people face to have children including: IVF, miscarriage, adoption and post-natal depression. All of these topics are approached with sensitivity and make the important point that in this social media obsessed era, people only ever present an idealised version of themselves to the world, yet behind the scenes, so many are actually struggling.
Despite the serious subject matter, Trying is funny and very easy-to-read, with a chatty, friendly tone. Told in the first-person by Olivia, we get to know her well – she struck me as a younger, more stylish, slightly more self-aware Bridget Jones. I don’t mean that as a negative though, I enjoyed reading the Bridget books back in the day! There are one or two plot moments that were maybe a little too Bridget – a fisticuffs fight over Olivia for example, but it’s also peppered with brilliant pop-culture references, my favourite being Felix and Olivia’s cats named Bret and Jemaine after this fantastic duo. There’s a nod to the rise in popularity of mum bloggers and even Brexit gets a mention. It was refreshing to read a book that is set so much in the present day.
Trying tells a moving story – even more so knowing it has a biographical basis – and addresses what can be a heartbreaking issue in a light-hearted, engaging way. Olivia is the star of this read; she is a warm, relatable character you could easily be friends with, who is just trying to make sense of all areas of her life – she makes mistakes and has her flaws, but don’t we all?
Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.