When Allen & Unwin asked me earlier this year to read and review Fauna, by Donna Mazza, I was both honoured and apprehensive.

Honoured because it was Allen & Unwin, and apprehensive because Donna Mazza is one of my university lecturers. I also knew the premise and wasn’t sure I was going to like the read.

I’m fairly sure I’m not the only man, faced with having to read a novel of pregnancy and motherhood, that wouldn’t consider running for the hills. But I stayed put and was rewarded with a story that will stay with me, in the delicious corners of my anxiety for some time.

It’s the very near future and Stacey is pregnant with a Neanderthal, the result of experimental gene-splicing. But the baby does not belong to Stacey and her husband Isak. She belongs to LifeBLOOD®, the corporation pioneering technology and procedures to bring the extinct back to life.

What follows is a deep dive into the intense connection between a mother and her baby, then child. But there is threat all about.

Reading Fauna is like watching a train hurtle through the night gathering speed. You know the track is broken somewhere up ahead but you don’t know where. You know the train is doomed, but you don’t know when.

Fauna creates a creeping seethe of apprehension throughout and is a masterclass of description. And Mazza’s particular style of first-person narrative creates a connection between the main character and reader that is closer than I have ever experienced.

Set in the Southwest of Western Australia, Fauna is a contemporary Australian Gothic psycho-emotional thriller that wrings every ounce out of what it is to be a mother at the edge of desperation.

Yes, Fauna will resonate with woman more than men. But gentlemen, if you’re brave enough to start reading, you won’t be disappointed in what is essentially a bloody good story.

Fauna is published by Allen & Unwin Australia.

ISBN: 978 1 76087 630 2

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