‘Elizabeth, Just 16’ by Cecilia Paul

Elizabeth Just 16
Elizabeth: Just Sixteen
3-stars

When teenager Elizabeth Appleton seeks medical advice to find out why her periods haven’t started, she is dealt a shocking blow – she can never have children. It transpires she has Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome (MRKH) – a congenital disorder affecting the female reproductive tract. The discovery throws the young woman into turmoil, questioning everything she has assumed about herself and her body thus far. How can she be a ‘normal’ girl if she can’t do the things other girls her age can do? The horror of the situation even prompts her to beg her parents not to tell anyone. In time, however, and with the support of her family and through sharing experiences with another young woman who also has MRKH, Elizabeth is able to begin to look to the future with hope.

First-time novelist Cecilia Paul explores this unusual condition in a bid to raise public awareness of MRKH and its sufferers. While the book is informative and educational and gives a rare insight into the difficulties facing women with MRKH, the writing was rather dry and matter-of-fact and for the most part didn’t engage me. To be honest, the book wasn’t suggestive of a novel at all, and often felt as if I were reading a well-researched article in a medical journal. For anyone with a particular interest in the syndrome, I’m sure it’ll serve as a valuable and positive account of this life-changing condition, but as a novel it didn’t work for me.

 
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