Inconceivable (1999) by Ben Elton
*This review contains spoilers!*
I have mixed feelings about this novel. To put it simply: the first half of it is pants-wettingly hilarious – who knew jokes about a person’s junk could be so varied and funny without getting old. But about half way through something bad happens and the rest of the novel never recovers the lightness and humour of the first half.
The novel is written in alternating diary entries by the two halves of a married couple: Lucy and Sam. The diary-keeping is suggested by a professional as they undertake IVF treatments in order for Lucy to get pregnant, and follows their various misadventures as they try everything from having sex on ley-lines to not having sex at all. At times it is quite gender-stereotyped: Sam is grumpy and bored with his career and quite neglectful of Lucy and the roller-coaster her body and mind are going through, and Lucy is caring, nurturing, often fragile and obsessed with having children. However, they are believable characters and their story is approached with a humour that somehow doesn’t diminish their efforts to create a child.
About half way through the novel Lucy discovers that Sam has been turning their IVF journey into a screenplay that is being made into a movie, thus advancing his boring career at the BBC. They break up, and the entire second half of the book is incredibly sad as Lucy hooks up with someone she works with, Sam realises that he was neglectful of Lucy and wasn’t taking the IVF seriously, and although they get back together and it ends with them happily about to have sex and try it all again, it really doesn’t feel like the story fully comes back from them breaking up.
This book is well worth an attempt, even if you only read the first half and give up when they break up – that’s probably the best way to read it.