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The Panic Years: Dates, Doubts, and the Mother of All Decisions

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The Panic Years: something between adolescence and menopause, a personal crisis, a transformation. The panic years can hit at any time but they are most commonly triggered somewhere between the ages of twenty-five and forty. During this time, every decision a woman makes - from postcode to partner, friends to family, work to weekends - will be impacted by the urgency of the The Panic Years: something between adolescence and menopause, a personal crisis, a transformation. The panic years can hit at any time but they are most commonly triggered somewhere between the ages of twenty-five and forty. During this time, every decision a woman makes - from postcode to partner, friends to family, work to weekends - will be impacted by the urgency of the one decision with a deadline, the one decision that is impossible to take back: whether or not to have a baby. But how to stay sane in such a maddening time? How to understand who you are and what you might want from life? How to know if you're making the right decisions? Raw, hilarious and beguilingly honest, Nell Frizzell's account of her panic years is both an arm around the shoulder and a campaign to start a conversation. This affects us all - women, men, mothers, children, partners, friends, colleagues - so it's time we started talking about it with a little more candour.


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The Panic Years: something between adolescence and menopause, a personal crisis, a transformation. The panic years can hit at any time but they are most commonly triggered somewhere between the ages of twenty-five and forty. During this time, every decision a woman makes - from postcode to partner, friends to family, work to weekends - will be impacted by the urgency of the The Panic Years: something between adolescence and menopause, a personal crisis, a transformation. The panic years can hit at any time but they are most commonly triggered somewhere between the ages of twenty-five and forty. During this time, every decision a woman makes - from postcode to partner, friends to family, work to weekends - will be impacted by the urgency of the one decision with a deadline, the one decision that is impossible to take back: whether or not to have a baby. But how to stay sane in such a maddening time? How to understand who you are and what you might want from life? How to know if you're making the right decisions? Raw, hilarious and beguilingly honest, Nell Frizzell's account of her panic years is both an arm around the shoulder and a campaign to start a conversation. This affects us all - women, men, mothers, children, partners, friends, colleagues - so it's time we started talking about it with a little more candour.

30 review for The Panic Years: Dates, Doubts, and the Mother of All Decisions

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    As a topic that stresses me out whenever I make the decision to try and navigate it, motherhood is for me and many others an all but fleeting set of circumstances colliding simultaneously which must happen before time shifts into a different part of life's journey. I am currently in those years now where almost daily I consider the positive and negatives, opportunities and restrictions but the primary element that creates this overwhelming anxiety is that it will soon have slipped through my han As a topic that stresses me out whenever I make the decision to try and navigate it, motherhood is for me and many others an all but fleeting set of circumstances colliding simultaneously which must happen before time shifts into a different part of life's journey. I am currently in those years now where almost daily I consider the positive and negatives, opportunities and restrictions but the primary element that creates this overwhelming anxiety is that it will soon have slipped through my hands. I feel tears as I write and it almost feels cruel that the fairer sex are the only ones with this issue. Men can happily go on procreating and producing offspring until their dying day but for us it is a topic that begs for a solid decision day after day and a decision that will undoubtedly change the course of more than just that child's life. It's a decision I can't make concretely and therefore this situation is destined to continue for years to come. Luckily, renowned journalist Nell Frizzell explores what happens when a woman begins to ask herself: should I have a baby? This somehow brings some comfort in such a complex situation. We have descriptors for many periods of life―adolescence, menopause, mid-life crisis, quarter-life crisis―but there is a period of profound change that many women face, often in their late twenties to early forties, that does not yet have a name. Nell Frizzell is calling this period of flux “the panic years,” and it is often characterized by a preoccupation with one major question: should I have a baby? And from there―do I want a baby? With whom should I have a baby? How will I know when I’m ready? Decisions made during this period suddenly take on more weight, as questions of love, career, friendship, fertility, and family clash together while peers begin the process of coupling and breeding. But this very important process is rarely written or talked about beyond the clichés of the “ticking clock.” Enter Frizzell, our comforting guide, who uses personal stories from her own experiences in the panic years to illuminate the larger social and cultural trends, and gives voice to the uncertainty, confusion, and urgency that tends to characterize this time of life. Frizzell reminds us that we are not alone in this, and encourages us to share our experiences together and those of the women around us―as she does with honesty and vulnerability in these pages. Raw and hilarious, The Panic Years is an arm around the shoulder for every woman trying to navigate life’s big decisions against the backdrop of the mother of all questions. I found a comforting clarity between these pages and am overjoyed that a book such as this has been written as it's seldom seen as a topic to be shared and discussed outside of family life. It's accessible and moving and made me both laugh and cry — the emotional aspects are on-point throughout, and I was appreciative of the straightforward, honest words, the feeling of not being alone in this anxiety and indecision, and if this is a life decision you are in any way considering, it would be to do yourself a disservice not to grab a copy of this. It's a rare gem packaged in such a well-rounded and informative manner that it feels like having an unbiased friend by your side giving advice, providing comfort and lending support when you may not feel comfortable sharing with a friend for the fear of judgement or because they already have their ready-made family. This is the most important book I have read in years and will be for many women. Highly recommended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    3.5 rounded down In a book which is somewhat in the vein of Rachel Cusk's A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother in parts, Nell Frizzell shares her experience of deciding she wanted kids and becoming a mother during a period she dubs "the panic years"; a period during a woman's late 20s to late 30s when many women begin to think about (and make) big life decisions which will impact on the rest of their life such as on life partners, buying a house and having kids. (I should add that there is a focus 3.5 rounded down In a book which is somewhat in the vein of Rachel Cusk's A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother in parts, Nell Frizzell shares her experience of deciding she wanted kids and becoming a mother during a period she dubs "the panic years"; a period during a woman's late 20s to late 30s when many women begin to think about (and make) big life decisions which will impact on the rest of their life such as on life partners, buying a house and having kids. (I should add that there is a focus in the book on the implication these decisions can have on a woman's career at this stage of her life, which is important and a real concern for many in the same boat that Frizzell finds herself in.) The main focus of her "panic years" surrounds the decision of whether or not to become a mother. I think the reader's enjoyment of the book overall will hinge on how much you care about or are interested in being witness to a stranger sharing her thought process/deliberation on this topic. I found it thought provoking and of interest for the most part, but thought this process was prolonged in places. I guess it's interesting to understand the considerations that go through someone's mind in deciding whether to embark on motherhood, but Frizzell presents a balanced "argument" (if you can call it that) for the most part. I've toed and froed about whether to round my rating up and down, and while I enjoyed later parts of the book - particularly once she got pregnant and her partner decided he, too, wanted a child - some earlier parts dragged, hence my final rounding down. Frizzell's honesty and no-holds-barred recounting of her experience of childbirth is refreshing and admirable in an age of picture-perfect posed photos of new mothers all over Instagram and the media which can make women struggling with motherhood (post-partum depression, for instance) feel alienated and alone in their predicament. Thank you Netgalley and Random House UK / Transworld Publishers for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Bentley

    I am 36 years old. Well, I will be 37 this year and so this book, The Panic Years by Nell Frizzell should, in theory, speak to me. Nell Frizzell is looking at things that society deems important to a 30+ year old. Things like marriage, children, and early menopause. And whilst I have thought about those things they aren’t necessarily a massive concern. I can see the reasons why Frizzell wrote about them and I admire her candid approach – at times she comes across as a little cuckoo and obsessed w I am 36 years old. Well, I will be 37 this year and so this book, The Panic Years by Nell Frizzell should, in theory, speak to me. Nell Frizzell is looking at things that society deems important to a 30+ year old. Things like marriage, children, and early menopause. And whilst I have thought about those things they aren’t necessarily a massive concern. I can see the reasons why Frizzell wrote about them and I admire her candid approach – at times she comes across as a little cuckoo and obsessed with time running away from her – but I think for me personally I didn’t mirror her concerns. I think The Panic Years would be a perfect book for someone looking for reassurance – in particular about becoming a mum – but it didn’t resonate with me because I don’t necessarily want the same things as her. The Panic Years is well written and I think more books like this are needed. Women need to have their voices heard on subjects that are generally kept quiet and hidden and it needs bold voices like Nell Frizzell and so I admire her greatly for her writing and her honesty. The Panic Years by Nell Frizzell is available now.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

    A very important book for women in their mid-twenties and thirties "Unlike childhood, adolescence, menopause or the mid-life crisis, we have no common term for the tumult of time, hormones, social pressure and maternal hunger that smacks into many women like a train at the end of their twenties and early thirties. (...) These years are compelled by the eternal question: should I have a baby, and, if so, when, how, why and with whom?" Nell Frizzell is a thirty-something journalist going through wha A very important book for women in their mid-twenties and thirties "Unlike childhood, adolescence, menopause or the mid-life crisis, we have no common term for the tumult of time, hormones, social pressure and maternal hunger that smacks into many women like a train at the end of their twenties and early thirties. (...) These years are compelled by the eternal question: should I have a baby, and, if so, when, how, why and with whom?" Nell Frizzell is a thirty-something journalist going through what most women at one point in their life go through: trying to figure out whether she wants to have children (and if yes, with whom?). She describes these years starting in the late twenties, where women just settle into a career, when they have to make a hard decision that few men actually realize. Do they want kids? A career? Both? And how on earth do you do both? She also touches on a number of other things, like seeing your friends start having kids, or getting pregnant quickly while your friend has been trying for years, and so on. On that note, she questions, "How can we stop seeing other women's lives as a comment upon our own? How can we learn not to compare ourselves to others around us? How do we take the sense of competition out of the sisterhood?" She also makes it a point of bringing equality and politics into this (as it should be), and questions the ecological impact of having kids. Lastly, she describes being pregnant and all the fears it comes with, as well as giving birth and settling into life as a new mom. Nell Frizzell brings up many valid points. I enjoyed reading this book, although it was not always an easy read. Frizzell lead me to rethink my choices, she validated some of them, she made me laugh. This is a very important book for professional women of about 25 and over, which i would recommend to all of my friends.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Audrey (audreyapproved)

    I initially thought this was a self-help book (maybe it's the cover?) but reader be warned - it's not. This is a memoir accounting the author's experiences in what she deems The Flux/The Panic Years (I am still uncertain why we switch between these terms - aren't they the same thing?). She defines these years as the period between a woman's late twenties and late thirties when she has to make some big decisions. Do I want kids? What would it mean for me to have or not have them? If I do want the I initially thought this was a self-help book (maybe it's the cover?) but reader be warned - it's not. This is a memoir accounting the author's experiences in what she deems The Flux/The Panic Years (I am still uncertain why we switch between these terms - aren't they the same thing?). She defines these years as the period between a woman's late twenties and late thirties when she has to make some big decisions. Do I want kids? What would it mean for me to have or not have them? If I do want them, when do I want them? With whom? And allllllll the other uncertainties, angst and stress that comes with these choices. There are things I enjoyed about this - specifically Frizzell's descriptions ("... the sky like a shared towel in a student bathroom: gray, mottled and damp") and her unflinching honesty about pregnancy and motherhood. Reading her chapter on giving birth, I realized that I have never read anything this honest and graphic? Albeit I haven't searched for that info, but nothing I've read in the past has gone into as much detail as she does. I also enjoyed her commentary societal views of motherhood and pregnancy. For example: - "Fertility is such a difficult feminist issue because our biology hasn't caught up with our politics" - a fantastic quote that dives into the timing of fertility (i.e. many women are rising in their careers when they must make a decision to have a family before the biological timer ticks down). - We all know it takes two-to-tango when it comes to getting pregnant, yet the burden of contraception and pregnancy rests solely on women (and this is embedded in our cultural and medical foundations). These things being said, I also had some issues. Firstly, and a big problem with the book, was that it dragged for me - so much so that I didn't want to pick it up again after reading the first few chapters. When I finally did (in order to finish this review), it felt like such a slog until ~2/3 in, when Frizzle begins to try for a child. Secondly, the author talks about a lot of studies and data, but none of it is cited (maybe this is because I had an ARC? I hope that's the reason why). Thirdly, it felt uncomfortable to hear her talk about how she had to convince and prod and push her boyfriend to agree to have a child with her. I get that she's probably trying to convey her honest experiences - but it sure seems like he never wanted a kid. Overall, I am glad I read this, although I don't know if it helped at all with my own personal navigation of The Panic Years. Frizzell writes that she always knew she wanted children, so this really deals less with her own personal decision of YES/NO and more-so how society/others view her choice, and her experiences living with her choice. If anything, it's reassuring to get inside the mind of somebody that also feels confused and concerned, but don't expect to find any of your own personal answers here. I voluntarily obtained a digital version of this book free from Netgalley and Flatiron Books in exchange for an honest review!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Clough

    I felt like applauding when I finished reading this. Books about women ‘in flux’ due to career changes, life changes and most significantly deciding to have children or not are chronically lacking. Nell’s account is tender and funny. She writes like you are her pal, which is soothing, letting you know whatever you do will be right for you. This book helped me feel settled as I enter my 30s.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Grace Leonard

    Well rounded book that explores the pressures put on 30 something women to become mothers, and this memoir is Nell’s experience messy real life experience of motherhood. It’s a well researched, emotional and uplifting all in one brilliant book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amy Platt

    This book spoke to me on so many levels especially since turning 25. This book is going to be everywhere and so popular you can feel it. Bought it in hard copy rather than kindle thinking I’ll want it on my bookshelf and was not wrong.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Erin B.

    Anyone else feel like they’re constantly just treading water, barely able to keep their shit together? I’ve been experiencing this phenomenon since 2009 with no end in sight. In The Panic Years, @nellfrizzell examines this critical time that many women go through beginning in their late 20s and ending who the fuck knows when. Panic, doubt, questions...should I? Shouldn’t I? What if this happens? What if it doesn’t? Told in stories about her own life experiences, Nell is able to craft a book that Anyone else feel like they’re constantly just treading water, barely able to keep their shit together? I’ve been experiencing this phenomenon since 2009 with no end in sight. In The Panic Years, @nellfrizzell examines this critical time that many women go through beginning in their late 20s and ending who the fuck knows when. Panic, doubt, questions...should I? Shouldn’t I? What if this happens? What if it doesn’t? Told in stories about her own life experiences, Nell is able to craft a book that most women of a certain age (and probably some guys too!) can find relatable. At times, it was laugh out loud funny. Other times, it was like looking in a mirror.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bri-zyReader

    Early on in The Panic Years, Nell Frizzell says she wrote this book for herself at 28. I'm 28, and I can report that this book changed my life. I'm planning on buying copies for all my friends in the same boat. It was exactly what I needed at this moment in my life. Nell is a brilliant, funny, and fearlessly open and honest guide to the "Flux." My hearty thanks and sisterhood head nod to this wonderful human. Early on in The Panic Years, Nell Frizzell says she wrote this book for herself at 28. I'm 28, and I can report that this book changed my life. I'm planning on buying copies for all my friends in the same boat. It was exactly what I needed at this moment in my life. Nell is a brilliant, funny, and fearlessly open and honest guide to the "Flux." My hearty thanks and sisterhood head nod to this wonderful human.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Megan Staunton

    THE PANIC YEARS can be found anywhere between adolescence and menopause. They can creep up on you with every birthday, on every friends engagement announcement and at every family meal. Thumping through your veins to the tick-tock of your internal clock, the panic years don’t care about your five year plan, your casual love life or your go-with-the-flow attitude. It is during this time that every decision a woman makes - from postcode to partner, friends to family, work to weekends that will be THE PANIC YEARS can be found anywhere between adolescence and menopause. They can creep up on you with every birthday, on every friends engagement announcement and at every family meal. Thumping through your veins to the tick-tock of your internal clock, the panic years don’t care about your five year plan, your casual love life or your go-with-the-flow attitude. It is during this time that every decision a woman makes - from postcode to partner, friends to family, work to weekends that will be impacted by the urgency of *one* decision. One with a deadline and one that is impossible to take back - whether or not to have a baby. By sharing her own story and everything else that gets whipped up into it: love, money, best friends’ weddings, jobs, late night arguments, commitment, climate change, and sex, Nell Frizzell opens the conversation that is often an internal one, yet affects us all, whilst busting myths, sharing shocking statistics, and exploring huge feminist issues along the way. Whilst I think I’m a few years away from TPY (she says optimistically) I can’t deny it is something that always plays at the back of my mind and it is through reading Nell’s honest, raw and hilarious account of the panic years that reaffirms it as the ~mother~ of all decisions.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chapter 30

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. With my 30th birthday looming I'd had this book in my pre-order list for some time. I had that feeling of impending doom and the question I know many of my friends have asked themselves: Have I achieved enough before turning thirty? I had the perception that 'The Panic Years' would be a sort of self-help book and talk more in depth about career choices, relationships and becoming a parent. The focus was on the latter. The clue is on the cover “dates, doubts and the mother of all decisions” I sho With my 30th birthday looming I'd had this book in my pre-order list for some time. I had that feeling of impending doom and the question I know many of my friends have asked themselves: Have I achieved enough before turning thirty? I had the perception that 'The Panic Years' would be a sort of self-help book and talk more in depth about career choices, relationships and becoming a parent. The focus was on the latter. The clue is on the cover “dates, doubts and the mother of all decisions” I should have paid more attention to the key word in that sentence: Mother. With no real desire to have children at this point in my life I was initially disappointed that this was the main topic, but Nell’s writing style ensured I couldn’t put it down! She is brutally honest, funny, and thought provoking. Although she so desperately wants to become a Mother herself, she talks beautifully about those people who take a different path: "When talking of babies, social pressure, choice, freedom, rituals, the future and feminism: those women should never be undermined, disregarded or criticized for that decision. Those women who cannot or do not, for any number of reasons, get pregnant should not be made to feel left out, less valuable, less female or more socially conspicuous because of those circumstances." I enjoyed the combination of informative statistics and her own personal experiences, most of which made me laugh out loud: "It takes quite some doing to squirt breastmilk on to the window of the number 242 bus" As I mentioned at the beginning of my review I am not in the same headspace as Nell at this point in my life in terms of wanting children, but I highly recommend reading this book. The person I'll recommend it to first...my boyfriend! Every man should pick this up and take stock of how incredible women really are.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Riana Autumn

    This book is all about the time in a woman's life when she's deciding about things like her relationship, her career and, the big unchangeable decision, kids. Author Nell walks you through this time period and shares her our journey through it and path to (spoiler alert) motherhood. As I'm entering this period of life myself, I found this book super relatable. A lot of the feelings and concerns Nell shared, I totally recognize in myself.  I appreciate that Nell points out her privilege and acknow This book is all about the time in a woman's life when she's deciding about things like her relationship, her career and, the big unchangeable decision, kids. Author Nell walks you through this time period and shares her our journey through it and path to (spoiler alert) motherhood. As I'm entering this period of life myself, I found this book super relatable. A lot of the feelings and concerns Nell shared, I totally recognize in myself.  I appreciate that Nell points out her privilege and acknowledges that she's writing this book as a well-off, educated, cis, hetero, white woman. She does involve a few other perspectives, like a trans single father and an older gay woman who didn't have children, but as this book is a memoir, it's mostly about Nell's experience.  There were a few points where I was rolling my eyes a bit at Nell. Her tirade against baby showers was a little bit melodramatic. And when she was first introducing the idea of children to her partner, she kept tip-toeing around it and I couldn't understand why she wouldn't just talk to him. But for the most part, I was nodding along with what Nell was saying. I loved that she spent time talking about how her own pregnancy made her strongly pro-choice, the power in owning female anger, and the realities of postpartum mental illness.  Her chapter about her birth, and hearing her baby's voice on the epilogue, were both very touching and emotional. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would love to read another book by Nell on her parenting adventures. I think it's a great read for any woman who is thinking about kids and other big life decisions. Even if you don't totally relate to Nell or even if you don't end up having or wanting children, I think you'll find something in this book that resonates and make the flux (as she calls it) less lonely.  4.5/5

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tilly Fitzgerald

    Well thank goodness someone has written this book - this is exactly the book I wish I’d had a couple of years ago, kind of as a supportive friend whilst I was making one of the biggest decisions of my life. The author has given a name to something which so many of us go through, and let us know that we’re not alone - she defines the Panic Years as those all important years where we need to decide whether we should have a baby, and who with, before it’s too late (in that annoying, biological, clo Well thank goodness someone has written this book - this is exactly the book I wish I’d had a couple of years ago, kind of as a supportive friend whilst I was making one of the biggest decisions of my life. The author has given a name to something which so many of us go through, and let us know that we’re not alone - she defines the Panic Years as those all important years where we need to decide whether we should have a baby, and who with, before it’s too late (in that annoying, biological, clock ticking way that I really resent, FYI). I found reading this such a comfort - even though I’m on the other side of the decision at this point! But there were so many years where I didn’t know if I wanted children, and even now I don’t know if the decision to have one was from within me or from the expectation - and the author describes this so perfectly. This is beautifully honest, warm, funny, and at times blunt - the author is brave enough to discuss things like the jealousy and resentment that can build when friends become pregnant and settle down before us, something which I’m sure so many can relate to but wouldn’t necessarily admit. I hope this memoir brings a whole generation of women great comfort, along with plenty of laughter, and OH GOD YES moments! I know I haven’t related to anything quite this much in a long time, and it just felt like picking up a conversation with an old friend - brilliant.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kerry Downes

    I never leave reviews but I was so impressed by this book. Nell Frizzell is a WONDROUS writer and I don’t know how I haven’t come across her articles before. I don’t usually go for non-fiction but, alongside her intelligent and thoughtful exploration of the decision to have a child, she includes her own personal story - be it her experience of baby showers, mad camping dates or falling in love - and this kept me completely hooked. I’m sure there will be parts of the book that resonate with some I never leave reviews but I was so impressed by this book. Nell Frizzell is a WONDROUS writer and I don’t know how I haven’t come across her articles before. I don’t usually go for non-fiction but, alongside her intelligent and thoughtful exploration of the decision to have a child, she includes her own personal story - be it her experience of baby showers, mad camping dates or falling in love - and this kept me completely hooked. I’m sure there will be parts of the book that resonate with some women, and others points that won’t. After 3 years of infertility I found it difficult to sympathise with her tears over not being pregnant after only the first month of trying. But this is the reality for many women (plus I’m quite sure she’s not asking for my sympathy!) so really we should salute her for sharing her story with such searing honesty. I’m sure it’s brought comfort to many women by voicing what they’ve been feeling, whether they realised it or not. I will absolutely be recommending it to my friends who are in the flux.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sophie

    As a 31 year old women in the midst of ‘The Flux’ I had been excited for this book to come out for a few months. The decision of if and when to have a baby weighs heavy on my mind everyday and I never feel I settle on an answer. For me, the overwhelming fear of birth is something I circle back to each time. I found parts of this book funny and relatable, but it left me feeling more anxious and lost than before. As the author always knew she wanted a baby the decision making element that I expect As a 31 year old women in the midst of ‘The Flux’ I had been excited for this book to come out for a few months. The decision of if and when to have a baby weighs heavy on my mind everyday and I never feel I settle on an answer. For me, the overwhelming fear of birth is something I circle back to each time. I found parts of this book funny and relatable, but it left me feeling more anxious and lost than before. As the author always knew she wanted a baby the decision making element that I expected from this book was lacking. The overall voice of the book felt negative and heavy. The detailed description of birth just added another story to the already large bank of birth stories I have read or been told. At this point I wish I could delete them all from my brain and start afresh. My mind feels muddied by knowing ‘too much’ about the raw ‘unfiltered’ reality of birth. Perhaps, in fact, ignorance is bliss.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Justine

    Thanks to NetGalley and Flatiron Books for providing an ARC!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Heller

    HOLY SHIT THIS BOOK?! I cannot begin to describe the journey this book takes you on. I didn’t realize how many decisions in woman’s life revolve around our fertility. Careers, friends, love, family—all of those are impacted by the way we’ve been conditioned to hear one word, “baby.” As someone who has tried to be there for friends through pregnancy, infertility, miscarriages and pregnancy termination I realize now how woefully ignorant I was/am. EVERY MAN WOMAN AND PERSON SHOULD READ THIS BOOK, a HOLY SHIT THIS BOOK?! I cannot begin to describe the journey this book takes you on. I didn’t realize how many decisions in woman’s life revolve around our fertility. Careers, friends, love, family—all of those are impacted by the way we’ve been conditioned to hear one word, “baby.” As someone who has tried to be there for friends through pregnancy, infertility, miscarriages and pregnancy termination I realize now how woefully ignorant I was/am. EVERY MAN WOMAN AND PERSON SHOULD READ THIS BOOK, and then call your mom and thank her for all the emotional turmoil she sat on for your existence!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    My rating is high, maybe not objectively, but because this book is deeply personal to me. I’m very glad it’s around. I’ll struggle to capture everything I want to say. Premise of the book: a memoir on the late 20s-early 30s period of life, dubbed “The Flux” by Nell Frizzell, when women who have not had children think with increasing intensity and obsession about how having a child could ever work for them. I have been recommended this book by 3 friends and counting; I’ve bought not only my own co My rating is high, maybe not objectively, but because this book is deeply personal to me. I’m very glad it’s around. I’ll struggle to capture everything I want to say. Premise of the book: a memoir on the late 20s-early 30s period of life, dubbed “The Flux” by Nell Frizzell, when women who have not had children think with increasing intensity and obsession about how having a child could ever work for them. I have been recommended this book by 3 friends and counting; I’ve bought not only my own copy, but 4 for friends. The praise has been nothing but superlative, I quote, “The best book I’d ever read”. If I were an author, I would be so moved by hearing this. It’s so clear from the reviews abounding, the wider reception, the huge sales, the women pressing this book on to other women - that this book has resonated so deeply with so many. I heard that the book was subject to a 13-way auction..! What I loved most was the absolute expose of how women feel about their fertility - from pre pubescence into peri menopause! - and i found it utter fearless how Nell Frizzell wrote about this. She recalls a conversation with her partner where she explains how she wanted a baby from 6, 8, years old - relatable! She shares a lot of the ugliest thoughts one has about oneself; one’s friends; one’s family, partners, and even one’s child on the topic of fertility, contraception, pregnancy and parenthood. ‘Raw’ is the word. Nell Frizzell has really put her personal experiences on the table; if a book is the greatest legacy (without a pulse, pardon the joke) that we can leave on this earth, I’d be very proud if i were her for how I’ve advanced the conversation. Because the truth is, what she writes feels so utterly familiar to the women who read it, and the boyfriends/partners who’ve had the fraught and tearful conversations, over and over. This is what we talk about; this is what we feel. And whilst there are brief articles in magazines or Refinery29 about how to balance babies vs. life, these short pieces only tickle the subject. Never do they go so in to depth about the huge mental toll that this background process takes on our CPU, all the time. (Not all women, just all women who want both babies and a roof over their head). You’d think more had been written, but this book, “The Panic Years”, is alone in its category for how in depth it is. There’s an oft-quoted line from the book in reviews, about how our politics haven’t caught up with our biology — this is what the book is about. Frizzell writes the best when she writes from the heart; around pp. 200 she has several pages of some of the most brilliant and pure writing I’ve read about the battle between contraception and your body - a really moving testimony that is both deeply personal and instantly recognisable. The anecdote of “The Big Cry” with her boyfriend, the body-shaking, unending, heartbreaking crying sobbing she enters into, possessed by synthetic oestrogen, is so recognisable. She talks about the loss of bodily autonomy when hijacked by hormonal contraception so, so well; and the constant conflict, both practical and moral, between being “safe” and being well. I’ve added a tonne of quotes here on Goodreads, but the book is worth reading if only for these few pages. Superb. (Please check out the quotes and you’ll be convinced very quickly, I think). There are many more wonderful passages, I was in fact brought to tears more than once. It was so intense at times that I had to put the book down. It’s really amazing how the written word can do this to us; I’m in awe of Frizzell’s ability to communicate so well. The opening chapters had me nodding ‘yes, yes, yes’, and the latter half of the book - in the middle section, a couple of other reviewers have mentioned that the pre-child years were weaker - but I disagree, the writing is so strong, but I truly think that art is imitating life - the reader is as impatient as a friend or family member who asks, ‘So when will you get married? Have children? Have MORE children?’, and as we read along, deeply empathising, we are impatient for the author’s baby-shaped problem to be resolved. I’d love to recommend the 2018 book “Notes to Self” by Emilie Pine if “The Panic Years” spoke to you. They’re not identical, but very related. I would like to also share some critical thoughts. ItThe book very much stands up to criticism, given its myriad wonderful qualities I’ve outlined above. Penguin have launched a vast PR campaign for this book, so I’d like to share a couple of points below and see if anyone else on Goodreads thinks similarly: In an early chapter, the author describes staying with her grandmother. A couple of times she refers to the physical appearance of the older women in quite derogatory terms, having “crepe-like” skin etc (pretty cliched!), and a couple of throwaway comments about the mental faculties of the older women whom she is temporarily living alongside. In what is essentially a deeply feminist book, I actually found these couple of moments really odd and disjointed, and actually struggled to get past them and continue reading. It was the lack of imagination for me - the older women were once young, bouncy, dynamic, sensual; with hopes, dreams, secrets and adventures; and still are! If only there had been a little more consideration for their humanity, instead of sticking that “old lady” label on them..quite surprising. Old age + frailty is not as far away from any of us as we might think. 2) I mentioned above that the book is at its absolute strongest when Frizzell writes on a very personal level. When she tries to encompass the whole of human experience as an aside to her own experience, whilst cited, it’s too scant to be meaningful. I completely understand the approach to be inclusive and wide-ranging (especially as Frizzell is a very accomplished journalist, god she can write!), but I think here, a slightly heavier editor’s hand would not have gone amiss. I think the reluctance to edit writers, especially those with a pre-existing profile, is a wider industry problem, though. Frizzell’s story is fascinating, important, and worthy on its own; the personal is political! She does not need citations to shore up her work. The book is a real masterwork and I would truly look forward to queuing up on publication day for more of her writing from the heart. Her labour story alone is (as she says herself) unique, and worthy of attention. You may disagree and enjoy the blend of memoir / quotations, but personally I was much more interested in Nell’s story and was taken out of the emotional intensity of the story when every few pages an ONS statistic or such was dropped in. I think there are a few too many “rule of three” adjectives in the sentence structures of the book.So many lists. It’s not a concise book, and I think the author is so cautious to try and cover all grounds in that sometimes she loses the audience’s attention through verbosity. 3) Finally — please, please, can we stop having only Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes giving bylines on newly published books? (see: Front cover of the hardback edition of ‘The Panic Years’). They are both wonderful wonderful women, and I’m sure it helps sales - but this is not exactly diverse and inclusive behaviour from publishing houses. I can’t count the number of book covers on which they appear! I’m beginning to find it a little insulting to other women who write, and to the reading market of people buying these books, that other cultural commentators are not considered… These are, however, minor points. All in all, a resounding recommendation for this wonderful book. Thank you for sharing so much with us, Nell. Leaving a few of my the most jaw-droppingly wonderful quotes: “I thought of the uneasiness with which I watched my early boyfriends rip open condoms, wondering if he might be about to destroy my A-Levels.” “So I got the copper coil; a tiny, hormone-free utensil that would keep me as magically, invisibly, uncomplainingly infertile as I believed all women in their twenties myst be in order to live full lives and for men to love them.” “Thanks to the wonders of modern contraception...we can pretend that all women are magically, invisibly, and easily infertile until they, and perhaps also their partner, decide they want to have a baby.” “In my case, the link between oral contraception and a mental health nosedive seemed indisputable. Like the drip, drip, drip of a tap in the night I was slowly, daily, regularly putting something down my throat that was making me lose control of my body and my mind. I didn't want it any more. I didn't want any of it any more.” “I asked Nick to imagine what it must feel like to have the one person you love most in the world denying you the one thing you want more than life itself; to have your entire life put on pause by someone else's uncertainty; to be asked to keep your body on hold - knowing that time will run out, because someone else doesn't want to have to think about it right now.” “With a voice that was as raw as it was wild, I explained that I had imagined having a baby since I was eight years old, six years old, maybe even longer. Could he imagine if he had wanted one thing, since he'd been a tiny boy in his Arsenal pyjamas, until now?” (On her newborn baby): “Although he was physically present, somehow it felt like he hadn't yet arrived; his great classy eyes were unseeing, his mind was unknowable, his soul - if such a thing exists - hung suspended elsewhere. I cared for his body, attended to his every need, felt wolfishly protective - but for the first six weeks, until he started to focus, smile, respond to my voice, have periods of waking that were not filled with howling anguish, i found it hard to know him. Let alone love him.”

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sophie

    Really glad this book exists, but the execution was far from ideal (repetitive; not sure whether it's a memoir or a work of journalism) Really glad this book exists, but the execution was far from ideal (repetitive; not sure whether it's a memoir or a work of journalism)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Cottingham

    Thank you Netgalley for the advance copy of Nell Frizell's The Panic Year's. The Panic Years: something between adolescence and menopause, a personal crisis, a transformation. The panic years can hit at any time but they are most commonly triggered somewhere between the ages of twenty-five and forty. During this time, every decision a woman makes - from postcode to partner, friends to family, work to weekends - will be impacted by the urgency of the one decision with a deadline, the one decision t Thank you Netgalley for the advance copy of Nell Frizell's The Panic Year's. The Panic Years: something between adolescence and menopause, a personal crisis, a transformation. The panic years can hit at any time but they are most commonly triggered somewhere between the ages of twenty-five and forty. During this time, every decision a woman makes - from postcode to partner, friends to family, work to weekends - will be impacted by the urgency of the one decision with a deadline, the one decision that is impossible to take back: whether or not to have a baby. 'Becoming a parent is the only decision that comes with a biological deadline, the only one that cannot be reversed: it is, therefore, the one decision that throws all others into such sharp focus.' I completely identified with this book and this is exactly how I felt in my late twenties before my children. I loved how she discusses fertility as a feminist issue, relationships, breakups and comparing ourselves to others. This was both hilarious and honest and will be a book keep returning to for years to come.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mary G.

    The "Panic Years" is Nell Frizzell's term for the stage in a woman's life where she decides whether or not to have a baby, with whom, and when the time might be right. The reader sees the panic years through Frizzell's own journey from unencumbered singledom to first-time motherhood. Frizzell is honest, funny, and self-deprecating in detailing her panic years, and I appreciated her candor. As a 30-year old married woman with no children, I definitely fit the target audience for this book. I enjoy The "Panic Years" is Nell Frizzell's term for the stage in a woman's life where she decides whether or not to have a baby, with whom, and when the time might be right. The reader sees the panic years through Frizzell's own journey from unencumbered singledom to first-time motherhood. Frizzell is honest, funny, and self-deprecating in detailing her panic years, and I appreciated her candor. As a 30-year old married woman with no children, I definitely fit the target audience for this book. I enjoyed reading about Frizzell's struggles to find herself and a supportive partner and to decide what she wanted from life. Unfortunately, the book drags a bit through the single years - the repeated discussion of insecurity and the ticking clock gets repetitive, and Frizzell can be a bit long-winded. Her writing really started to shine for me when she got to her labor and postpartum life, as well as the challenges that NHS cuts have forced upon women in the UK. Thank you to Flatiron Books for providing an ARC on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Janilyn Kocher

    Frizzell entertains readers with a graphic account of her years of angst and anguish between 28-33. She contemplated having a baby, made changes in her career and relationships. The author is very blunt and forthright with her emotions and decisions. She is an entertaining writer. I think this book will resonate with many women in the same age range regarding life changing decisions. To have or not have a child, especially as a woman enters her 30s is accompanied with many emotions. It’s a good Frizzell entertains readers with a graphic account of her years of angst and anguish between 28-33. She contemplated having a baby, made changes in her career and relationships. The author is very blunt and forthright with her emotions and decisions. She is an entertaining writer. I think this book will resonate with many women in the same age range regarding life changing decisions. To have or not have a child, especially as a woman enters her 30s is accompanied with many emotions. It’s a good book for women to read to know they are not alone. Thanks to NetGalley and Flatiron Books for the early copy.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Izzy

    I’d highly recommend this book – right from the early pages I felt in awe of Nell’s ability to articulate so many of the swirling questions and secret fears I hold around the idea of having kids (and when, and how). She’s a beautiful writer and the stories from her own life bring in lots of warmth and colour to balance the more heavy-hitting aspects of these big questions. Absolutely one of my best reads of the year.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rosalie (Novels & Teacups)

    Reading Nell Frizzell’s debut is like sitting with your best friend over a large glass of red wine and having life laid bare. It’s a raw, emotional, funny and candid look at our late twenties into our thirties and early forties – so today’s millennial women – and it gives a name to this otherwise nameless period. ‘Unlike childhood, adolescence, menopause, or the midlife crisis,’ Frizzell writes, ‘we have no common term for the tumult of time, hormones, social pressure, and maternal hunger that s Reading Nell Frizzell’s debut is like sitting with your best friend over a large glass of red wine and having life laid bare. It’s a raw, emotional, funny and candid look at our late twenties into our thirties and early forties – so today’s millennial women – and it gives a name to this otherwise nameless period. ‘Unlike childhood, adolescence, menopause, or the midlife crisis,’ Frizzell writes, ‘we have no common term for the tumult of time, hormones, social pressure, and maternal hunger that smacks into many women like a train at the end of their twenties and early thirties.’ This book commits to page the ways that likely many millennial women* have felt – or will feel – at some point in their lives. Unlike men, who aren’t bound to their fertility in quite the same way, women are conditioned to listen to the tick of their biological clock and make a decision that will forever shape their lives. It’s not a choice that can be made in isolation – at Frizzell says, it becomes ‘the baseline to everything.’ It’s a choice that you have to make ‘now, before your body takes the choice away from you.’ This is a deeply personal account from Frizzell about her navigation of the panic years, through disastrous dates to a determined resolve to live a baby-free life to the max and relocate to Berlin. Frizzell is a journalist, and there’s a journalistic flair and refreshing honesty to the way she blends the sacred and profane. These are heavy topics, doubtless, but written in an accessible way that combines a perfect balance of facts and figures with the personal anecdote. ‘Our biology hasn’t caught up with our politics’ Reproductive rights is, of course, a key feminist issue, and Frizzell addresses the myriad ways in which our biology disadvantages us – from the woeful and shocking lack of research into the effects of the contraceptive pill to the politics around going on maternity leave while you’ve only got your feet on a low rung of a very tall ladder – and how on earth you’ll be able to continue to climb it after a year off work (if you’re lucky enough to live in Europe) combined with the utter exhaustion of being a primary caregiver. She talks openly about how it feels to have members of your friendship group procreate. Interestingly, she links the feelings of anxiety over one’s own reproductive plans in relation to their friends having babies as a necessary biproduct of life under capitalism, where we are conditioned to view the allocation of resources as competition. Illogical as it may be, a sea full of happy pregnant friends may have you sweating as to the statistical probability of your own healthy pregnancy. It’s graphic at times – sometimes there’s a little too much candour, but perhaps I’m just squeamish (I am). But there’s something so refreshing in the messiness of it all. I’ve also never read anything that really gives voice and validation to these decisions. Rather than brushing off motherhood as existing in some removed feminine realm of the domestic, as it has been for so much of history, Frizzell champions these decisions and experiences as pretty much the crux of humanity: ‘Everybody is the product of some woman’s pregnancy and birth; the possibility and reality of having a baby is as important, as interesting, and as worthy of our attention as anything created, experienced, or believed by humanity.’ I read it in two days. And I’m buying for all fellow millennial women in my life. *Women/nonbinary/trans

  26. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Gabel

    When I saw the title of this book, I knew I had to read it. As someone who has gone through many life changes in the past several years, I still feel rather unsettled and uncertain about my life’s trajectory and with that uncertainty comes a level of panic/fear. Am I running out of time to do the things I want to do? Is it too late to start over? Should I be married by now? Do I want kids? I’m sure many of you can relate. Nell Frizzell, the author of The Panic Years and a freelance journalist liv When I saw the title of this book, I knew I had to read it. As someone who has gone through many life changes in the past several years, I still feel rather unsettled and uncertain about my life’s trajectory and with that uncertainty comes a level of panic/fear. Am I running out of time to do the things I want to do? Is it too late to start over? Should I be married by now? Do I want kids? I’m sure many of you can relate. Nell Frizzell, the author of The Panic Years and a freelance journalist living in the UK, calls the period between person’s late twenties and early forties “the flux,” a time in which women in particular are faced with many life-changing decisions. One of the most important of which, is whether or not to have children. As Nell recounts her experience navigating her way through her own Flux or “panic years” she details all her doubts, struggles and triumphs as a means to help other women through this challenging season of life. While the premise of the book really spoke to me and I so appreciate the author’s willingness to bare her soul in the hopes of making others feel less alone, I wish there had been a bit more focus on career, friendships and/or inevitable bad dates, rather than so many pages dedicated to wanting/having babies. Frizell does touch on all these topics, however, the bulk of the book centers on the question of whether or not to have a baby and motherhood. As I am still a ways away from starting a family, I didn’t feel quite as connected to this subject matter as someone who is actively wanting or trying to conceive. That said, if you fall into the latter camp or are a new mom, I think there is quite a lot in this book that will resonate with you. One of the things I liked most about the author’s blunt writing style is that she unabashedly shares her feelings on issues that many consider taboo. For example, she talks about having to learn to love her son as well as sometimes wondering if she made the right choice in deciding to have a child. While I myself have not personally experienced these things, I have to imagine many mothers can relate. Special thanks to Flatiron Books for sending me my copy of The Panic Years (out now)!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Yasmin Florence

    I wanted to love this book, I was so excited for the release as this a topic I am fascinated by but it fell a bit flat for me. Nell is an incredibly privileged white professional woman, she does acknowledge this at various points but with no real depth or awareness. Case in point when she talks about her 30th birthday as a one woman wedding!(but I love the idea of celebrating women and their achievements outside of weddings and baby showers, the way she wrote it just felt very self indulgent). Th I wanted to love this book, I was so excited for the release as this a topic I am fascinated by but it fell a bit flat for me. Nell is an incredibly privileged white professional woman, she does acknowledge this at various points but with no real depth or awareness. Case in point when she talks about her 30th birthday as a one woman wedding!(but I love the idea of celebrating women and their achievements outside of weddings and baby showers, the way she wrote it just felt very self indulgent). The book is essentially her story, peppered with anecdotes from other very similar minded (and privileged) women about the choice to have a baby and when. She makes various questionable decisions throughout the book and tells us many times how she spent lots of time and money on therapy to better herself. She knows she really wants a baby but starts a relationship with a lovely man who genuinely isn't sure if he wants one at all. In the end he decides to go for it and they get pregnant quickly with a son - good for her. I can't help but feel this is not how it ends for many women and is a mildly risky strategy to endorse. I think the book is marketed in a misleading fashion as it's kind of her memoir with sociological insights. That said, I love the idea of labelling the flux as 'the panic years' and giving voice to this unique time in women's lives. Her description of giving birth and early motherhood was really eye opening and very human. Part of why I struggled might be that I just can't identify with so much of her life, but its marketed as a book for ALL women in 'the panic years'. It was good at debunking really common fertility myths, unpacking how we might feel when a good friend tells us they're pregnant, work decisions and implications and shedding light on how female fertility and the pill is horribly underesearched. 3 stars as it was fairly enjoyable but didn't live up to the hype or the promise.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Amy Walker

    The premise of the book is great. The author has really tapped into something that, before now, didn't have a name but is experienced by many women in "the panic years." However, the writing is really poor, to such an extent that I felt disengaged from something I could seriously relate to. Chapters 1 to 8 could have been condensed into a magazine article. It becomes clear when reading that the author has a style of writing which lends itself to articles, but not books. Sentences are long and co The premise of the book is great. The author has really tapped into something that, before now, didn't have a name but is experienced by many women in "the panic years." However, the writing is really poor, to such an extent that I felt disengaged from something I could seriously relate to. Chapters 1 to 8 could have been condensed into a magazine article. It becomes clear when reading that the author has a style of writing which lends itself to articles, but not books. Sentences are long and convoluted and most of the book just repeats itself One particular thing that annoyed me was the constant, overused, long lists that were used to describe almost every single point. It was as though this was the only writing device the author knew about, and it got to a point where, once I saw another list, (which did nothing but dilute the text) was coming, I would just skip past it. I'm not sure why this wasn't picked up by the editors? Maybe it's just me. From chapter 8 onwards, the book really picks up and is enjoyable, but in the final chapter we go back again with a lot of repatition and those dreaded lists. I want to recommend this book to my friends as I think they'll relate to a lot of what is being said, but I feel that I'd have to caveat that recommendation by making it clear the reading this is a slog.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Audiobook from my library. The panic years is the term used for women in their mid-late twenties and their thirties to describe the anxiety around doing everything at the right time. The decision to travel, by a house, get married, have a baby, have a career. These years feel like make or break and your decision can change your life. Frizzell's book is based on her own personal experiences. The last part of the book was particularly strong where she discusses being a new mother. Her account is ho Audiobook from my library. The panic years is the term used for women in their mid-late twenties and their thirties to describe the anxiety around doing everything at the right time. The decision to travel, by a house, get married, have a baby, have a career. These years feel like make or break and your decision can change your life. Frizzell's book is based on her own personal experiences. The last part of the book was particularly strong where she discusses being a new mother. Her account is honest and it is important to have stories that show the realities of parenthood because the rose-tinted version that is often celebrated is damaging. I also found her discussion and research on contraception really interesting. I'm going to be honest, I have read this at the wrong time and if I hadn't been on hold for weeks at the library, I probably would've returned it to read at a later date. There is now an extra layer to this panic - the pandemic. As a single person in their mid-twenties that does not have a career job, the first section of this book made me stress and not feel great about my life. That is no fault of the author or the book. However, if you are prone to have an existential crisis about these things, maybe save it for when we are not all stuck indoors and can't see people and live our lives.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Teodora Agarici

    This felt like a sequel to Dolly Alderton’s “Everything I know about love”, the motherhood version. In fact, Frizzell even quotes Alderton on this: “Fertility is such a difficult feminist issue because our biology hasn’t caught up with our politics.” The Panic Years are about the limits of female fertility, the pressures women have around the idea of conceiving and the necessities of childcare: financial security, time, employment prospects etc A well-intentioned book that should spark conversa This felt like a sequel to Dolly Alderton’s “Everything I know about love”, the motherhood version. In fact, Frizzell even quotes Alderton on this: “Fertility is such a difficult feminist issue because our biology hasn’t caught up with our politics.” The Panic Years are about the limits of female fertility, the pressures women have around the idea of conceiving and the necessities of childcare: financial security, time, employment prospects etc A well-intentioned book that should spark conversations around the reality of fertility and motherhood. Because, of course, since men don’t have to go through this race against the biological clock, there is not much fuss about it. Frizzell is occasionally funny, mostly repetitive and probably too honest. There is one exceptionally detailed chapter on labour that makes you question whether you truly want another human being growing inside you. Anyway, thank God now Frizzell has a son. Otherwise, all those 300 pages of detailed explanations about how she’s planned her entire life for this exact moment (skip the romance, that’s optional) would have been for nothing.

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