Aussie Book Review: Claiming Noah by Amanda Ortlepp

Claiming Noah  Claiming Noah by Amanda Ortlepp


Review copy provided by publisher

Simon & Schuster, March 2015

 Synopsis- Catriona and James are desperate for children, and embark on an IVF program. After a gruelling round of treatments, Catriona finally falls pregnant, and they donate their remaining embryo anonymously.

Diana and Liam are on a waiting list to receive an embryo. Sooner than expected, they are thrilled to discover one is available.

After a difficult pregnancy, Catriona gives birth to Sebastian. But severe postnatal depression affects her badly, and quickly turns into deadly psychosis. For her protection and her baby’s, she’s admitted into psychiatric care. When she comes home, she again struggles to bond with her baby, but gradually life finds its own rhythm.

Meanwhile, Diana has given birth to a beautiful little boy, Noah.
But when he is two months old Noah is abducted … and Diana and Liam’s nightmare begins.

Where is Noah?

This gripping, emotional thriller binds together the stories of Catriona and Diana and will leave you on the edge of your seat.

What if your child belonged to someone else?

 Review- I must admit, when this book turned up for review, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand I thought, how could a perinatal story compete with the likes of psychiatrist and author Dawn Barker? Fractured and Let Her Go, were extremely well written and stayed with me long after I put it down. Secondly, perinatal mental health is the field in which I work- did I really want to read about it in my spare time? Thirdly, I’M PREGNANT (13 weeks- very exciting!), did I really want to read about distressing perinatal issues while I was in the anxious first trimester of my own pregnancy?

In short: yes, yes and yes. Claiming Noah does compare well to Barker’s. Yes I will pick up a perinatal book because I just can’t help myself and yes, I thought I could handle a depressing story while I was in an emotional & hormonal state. Was it worth it? Yes.

Claiming Noah is the debut novel by Australian author Amanda Ortlepp. It’s a dual viewpoint narrative, with the two female characters who are at the point in their lives where they wish to start a family.

Catriona is in her early thirties and has agreed to undergo IVF so that she can have a baby with her husband James. He’s desperate for a child, and despite her ambivalence she agrees, even though she doesn’t feel particularly maternal. After a serious of procedures and a miscarriage, they finally fall pregnant and have a baby boy named Sebastian. During the pregnancy they decide to adopt out their remaining embryo anonymously.

Diana and Liam also have fertility issues and are on the waiting list for an embryo adoption. They are quickly matched to a donor and fall pregnant successfully. Only a month after Catriona, Diana gives birth to a baby boy named Noah.

Catriona, a once driven and successful career woman is struggling immensely with the transition to motherhood. Everything feels overwhelming and completely out of her control. She soon becomes depressed and has convinced herself that Sebastian doesn’t like her and that she’s just not cut out to be a mother. Left untreated, Catriona hides the symptoms and develops a rare but serious perinatal mental illness known as puerperal psychosis. To protect her and the baby, Catriona is admitted to a psychiatric hospital to be medicated and monitored. When she returns home, she continues to struggle in her feelings toward Sebastian and decides to return to full-time work while James becomes a stay-at-home dad.

At two months old, Diana and Liam face devastating news when their son is kidnapped. There are no clear leads for two years, in this time Diana and Liam’s relationship fall apart and they are both in the midst of grief. When the two couples’ lives intertwine, the story pulls the readers heartstrings in both directions. It’s a story that brings up many ethical and legal dilemmas in this day and age where IVF and adoption is so prevalent.

There were times I found this story quite hard to read, where normally I could look at the issues objectively, I found myself thinking about my own experience of pregnancy and the approach of motherhood. It’s certainly thought-provoking, but it’s also moving and thankfully the ending leaves the reader with some hope.

Claiming Noah touches on many sensitive perinatal issues including fertility issues, miscarriage, perinatal mental health and IVF embryo donation. Underneath all these big issues are real people with complex lives, complicated relationships and a spectrum of coping strategies. What Ortlepp does so well is bring the characters to life, she pulls apart their relationships until your left with exposed fears, entrenched defensive mechanisms and the everyday push and pull of relationships.

Overall Rating

“I really liked this”


Claiming Noah can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

This book was read as part of the AWW2015 challenge:

Book #4 reviewed



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