Review: Dangerous Visions: The Testament of Jessie Lamb

JessieBy Jane Rogers

Radio 4, June 17-21

In a world where pregnancy kills, a young girl is forced to consider the consequences of her actions.

Rather than a straightforward play (although with a small amount of editing, it could easily be repeated as such), Jane Rogers has adapted her novel into five slots for the Fifteen Minute Drama. If you’ve read the original story, you may be surprised by the omission of her parents’ viewpoint – Jessie, after all, isn’t the most attractive character – but Rogers has carefully ensured that the listener is able to read between the lines.

In her blog about the edit, Rogers believes that she may have cut too much, since the book counterpoints Jesse’s decisions with the catastrophes that are going on around her – not simply the major one of Maternal Death Syndrome, but also in her family life, and elsewhere in the world. This isn’t the case: as the story progresses, there’s a terrible feeling of inexorable acceleration as Jesse descends into a place where what on the face of it is a totally illogical decision becomes understandable.

You are left wondering for some time exactly why the testament is being written – is it for her parents to understand why Jesse is considering a drastic act? Do her parents believe that the act of writing everything down will make her reconsider? Or is there a darker purpose…?

With some of these Dangerous Visions, I’ve wanted to know more about the worlds created; if your appetite is whetted by the adaptation, then the novel is recommended.

Verdict: A dark and chilling tale. 8/10

Paul Simpson

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