I whole-heartedly feel that books are here to make us all feel less alone, a sentiment that rang very true while reading The Panic Years. Nell Frizzell is a British journalist, who after her own rollercoaster, has decided to lift the lid on what she calls ‘The Flux’: “The Flux is the gap between adolescence and midlife, during which women lose that constructed artifice of control over their lives, confront their fertility and build themselves new identities.” Candidly walking us through her own Flux, to finding her feet as a new mother, and everything in between. Frizzell’s need to make sense of her own Flux serves as a potential help for us all. Whether you’re still pondering the big Q, or you’ve already had kids, even if you never want them, this book has something for everyone.
While this book is largely from Frizzell's point of view as it is part memoir, part exploration of female health, Frizzell has taken the time in knowing that one person can’t represent everyone, to interview a wide range of voices. From women who never want kids, women who are struggling with fertility, women who just don’t know yet, to the gay and trans communities, and even an environmentalist on whether it really is responsible to have children in this current climate. I urge you to remain open minded to these very personal accounts from others perspectives and not to dismiss their experiences in light of your own as can be so easily done, especially on a topic that bares a heavy load for many. When I think about laying my own flux years out there for everyone to read, I am not so sure I am ready to be quite so vulnerable.
Frizzell really touches on all the taboo secret thoughts of women, giving the feeling of a very private conversation you might not even have with one of your closest friend. For example going to baby showers is not that much fun, and finding out your friends are starting to have kids is “in fact, a focal point of panic, nostalgia, grief, longing, uncertainty and confusion too.” Also what is our fixation with thirty and the impending turmoil of our ‘suddenly declining’ fertility when we ring in the new decade?! And even when you’ve made your choice, regardless of what that may be “Whether you have a baby or whether you don’t, there will be moments when you may regret what you’ve done. It is very likely that, at times, you’ll worry that you made the wrong call.” And that’s okay too.
This book is hard hitting and when you’re not being confronted with facts you feel you should have known, you will be eagerly nodding your head in outraged agreement with Frizzell as she perfectly sums up where society is letting down women on topics such as birth control, abortion, female autonomy, death rates in child birth, post natal depression and child care. While there are a lot of privileges that come with life in a western society, there are still so many areas where we are failing women and this is continuously prevalent in women’s health. Although this book is written with UK stats, it is clear where the crossovers lie, and I would recommend tuning into RNZ or scrolling through their back catalogue on their app if you wish to listen to some of the interviews they have held with health experts here at home on where we need to be doing better.
So let us just take a moment to applaud Frizzell’s honesty, and vulnerability to share with us something so deeply personal that so many other woman feel unable to share, which is exactly why we need this book so much. To be able to have this conversation internally with Frizzell will come as a gift to many, one where there is nothing personal between you two, there is no risk of inadvertently offending your loved one, and you can admit (even if for just a moment) all your true feelings about the very complicated choice of motherhood. I feel like I may have saved myself a few pennies in therapy bills.