When the Australian government urged older workers to delay retirement, some observers saw this as ‘wedge’ politics. One ageing media personality joked about younger women refusing to have babies sufficient to care for him in his dotage. For electors, the falling birth rate may be a controversial economic issue, but for some couples, and especially women, decisions about procreation are not theoretical exercises but painful personal dilemmas.
Take the example of Kirsten and Lindsay. Kirsten, in her mid-thirties, knows that time is running out on what newspaper columnists might call her ‘biological clock’. Her decision about whether she should try to conceive is complicated by the reluctance of her partner, and by two decades of automatic resort to the pill and abortions. Such characters could deteriorate into two-dimensional caricatures, but, in The Philosopher’s Doll, Amanda Lohrey gives them lives of depth, richness, and complexity.