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Anna’s Baby

I wish Andrea Bartz's was not printed on the front cover of Delicate Condition. It undeniably influenced my reading of Valentine's maternity horror in a way that's really unfair to the book.

I understand why Bartz draws a parallel between Levine's ubiquitous story and Valentine's - both draw attention to the gaslighting and condescension pregnant people face. And, given the pervasiveness of Rosemary's Baby as a cultural subject, Valentine cannot deny a level of influence. But it feels unfair to say that Delicate Condition is an updating of someone else's story, when it has so much to offer of its own.

There is both agency and horror in the reproductive body, and affective turmoil for anyone managing the medicalisation of fertility. There is also a level of body horror that is hard to write without experience; in an interview with PopHorror, Valentine, who started writing the novel while six months pregnant, says:

I had suffered a miscarriage about a year before starting to work on this book and it really angered me that the miscarriages I’d read in books or seen in TV shows and movies all seemed to follow the same script, which was nothing like what I went through. I wanted to write something that felt truer to my experience. 

It's been fourteen years since I was last pregnant, but I remember the joy and the horror, the discomfort, the brain fog, and being treated as a vessel rather than a whole person (albeit never by my wonderful wife). While Levine's book is an excellent horror about violation of both body and trust, he cannot speak from within the reproductive body; his horror is without*. Valentine's is from within.

Instead of playing the game of "where's Satan?"** as the comparison suggests, this book should be read as another fascinating take on maternal horror.

*And falls into the trap of the Madonna trope

** Nowhere. There's no Satan.

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