BloodMining by Laura Wilkinson

3rd Oct 2011


Her début novel, BloodMining, is published by Bridge House, the indie press behind last year’s fundraising anthology, 100 Stories for Haiti.

BloodMining began as flash fiction, sparked by a news item about a British woman who became a new mother at the age of 62. The action takes place within two time settings – the near (2015-20), and more distant future (2048-53.)

Megan Evens is a journalist who returns to her childhood home in Wales when she becomes pregnant with a son, Cerdic. After learning that Cerdic suffers from a rare and deadly inherited disease, Megan must find a donor to save his life. Her search leads her on a trail across Europe, towards the unravelling of a long-held family secret.

Wikinson’s future is not, at first glance, so different from the present. Her imagined world is credible because while subtly different, it is rooted in current anxieties. In the opening chapter, Megan encounters a group of Islamic fundamentalists while reporting in China.

Back in Wales, it seems that little has changed. Wilkinson gently introduces the ‘mulmed’ – an all-purpose, multimedia device – but, wisely, she does not blind us with technology. However, broader social changes are revealed as the novel progresses.

Overseas travel, car usage and alcohol intake are strictly rationed. Most strikingly, motherhood has become ‘a patriotic duty’, with a government-led Population Protection drive in place.

In the light of recent, highly controversial proposals by Tory MP Nadine Dorries to bar non-statutory abortion providers from providing counselling to expectant mothers, it is evident that, even in 21st century Britain, a woman’s right to choose cannot be taken for granted.

Gutsy and fiercely independent, Megan is a very modern heroine. Wilkinson creates a rich internal narrative, allowing readers to connect with her main character. As Megan begins to question her own identity, her loneliness draws us still closer.

But this is not only Megan’s story. As she explores her origins, the novel looks back to her mother Elizabeth’s experiences during a plague outbreak years before. Wilkinson refers to the legendary Pied Piper of Hamelin, suggesting how a forgotten terror could be reawakened in an age of ecological meltdown.

Elizabeth’s guilt-ridden response to a devastating loss contrasts with that of her narcissistic mother, Hannah, whose impulsive actions will reverberate for generations to come. Megan’s search will lead her to the fertility clinics of Romania, highlighting the West’s ruthless exploitation of less privileged countries to meet its own needs. Her companion, fellow journalist Jack North, adds a different perspective to the story.

As a novel about women, ageing, and the mother-child relationship, BloodMining is compelling, and Wilkinson ably navigates the tender, sometimes fraught exchanges between her protagonists.

Though its scope is ambitious, and could easily have veered off-course, BloodMining’s deft interweaving of complex themes makes for a haunting début. Buy it in paperback for £10.99.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended for: Fans of contemporary thrillers, with an interest in eco-feminism.

Other recommended reading: The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers; Cuckoo by Julia Crouch; In Search of Adam by Caroline Smailes.

Tara Hanks