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The Farm Reviews

The Farm by Joanne Ramos

The Farm

Joanne Ramos

3.93 out of 5

6 reviews

Imprint: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publication date: 7 May 2019
ISBN: 9781526605252

Life is a lucrative business, as long as you play by the rules... Ambitious businesswoman Mae Yu runs Golden Oaks - a luxury retreat transforming the fertility industry. There, women get the very best of everything: organic meals, fitness trainers, daily massages and big money. Provided they dedicate themselves to producing the perfect baby.

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5 stars out of 5
Alice O'Keeffe
1 Feb 2019

"Bloomsbury’s super-lead début for 2019 is also the first début of 2019 to grab the top spot for me"

Bloomsbury’s super-lead début for 2019 is also the first début of 2019 to grab the top spot for me. It begins with Jane, a young Filipino immigrant with a tiny baby, who is desperate to build a better life for herself and her child. Living in a cramped dorm in Queens, New York, with her shrewd aunt (Ate) Evelyn, who has made money in Manhattan as a baby nurse to the rich, Jane sees a way out when she is offered the chance to make money as a Host at Golden Oaks, a luxury retreat "transforming the fertility industry".

Reviews

4 stars out of 5
Benjamin Evans
12 May 2019

"Capitalism is the villain in this near-future tale set on a surrogacy facility for the super-rich"

The Farm doesn’t present a full-bore dystopia so much as occupy an uncomfortable space between now and the near future: if such an ultra-elite surrogacy venture doesn’t exist already, it surely will soon. In fact, the villain in The Farm is arguably unfettered capitalism. Mae truly believes the Hosts are “treated extremely well, and they’re compensated more than adequately for their efforts”. Yet while the wombs of Jane and friends may not be subjugated by force, the chasm of socioeconomic inequality throws free choice into doubt: the dystopia is now.

4 stars out of 5
Melissa Katsoulis
10 May 2019

"The story of an elite surrogacy home skilfully tackles the hot issues of the day"

Ramos has crafted a real page-turner that combines all the hottest issues of the day: inequality, race and women’s battle to reclaim their bodies from commodification by big business, with the eternal questions of how much we can sacrifice before losing ourselves completely. She is eloquent on the little intimacies of gestating a baby and the upstairs-downstairs dramas between rich white ladies who feel guilty about everything and their nannies who must debase themselves without making their bosses feel sorry for them. The result is an entertaining novel that is also a serious warning. 

4 stars out of 5
9 May 2019

"Wealthy foetuses occupy the bodies of immigrant women in a thrilling debut about the new frontier of colonialism and the savagery of the American dream"

The Farm reads not so much as dystopia, but as a plausible next venture for a capitalist ruling class that has grudgingly opened its doors to women and must now contend with the problem of fertility and motherhood. It is also a novel about the limits of American meritocracy. It asks us to consider who gets to rise (from poverty, immigrant abjection), and who must serve that person’s narrative. Is an enterprise exploitative if all parties agree? This is what business schools teach our future capitalists: the invisible hand makes all free markets fair and efficient.

3 stars out of 5
8 May 2019

"“The Farm” may be an “issue” book, but it wears the mantle lightly"

“The Farm” may be an “issue” book, but it wears the mantle lightly. It’s a breezy novel full of types (the Shark, the Dreamer, the Rebel, the Saint), and veers, not always successfully, from earnestness into satire. That shift in voice can obscure the novel’s intent — though to be fair, ambiguity may be the point... Yet Ramos also lingers indulgently over the trappings of the wealthy, to the point where reading this novel felt a bit like watching several hours of reality-TV luxury porn. So “The Farm” isn’t not a critique, but it’s also not an indictment. Is commercial surrogacy profiteering or opportunity? Is it inherently racist? Does it honor or degrade women? The novel’s too-neat ending won’t provide satisfying answers. But the stage is set for lively book chat...

 

2 stars out of 5
1 May 2019

"Joanne Ramos sets up the intriguing premise of monetising surrogacy by connecting needy immigrants with high-net-worth individuals"

The Farm brims with the potential for an excoriation of capitalist exploitation, for dystopian darkness and sinister consequences, but it miscarries the opportunity. The novel’s central idea invites comparisons with The Handmaid’s Tale or Never Let Me Go, yet it’s nowhere near that literary league. In its timely brush with gender politics and the framework of multi-character perspectives, it has more in common with Naomi Alderman’s 2016 novel The Power. Unlike that feminist sci-fi thriller, the worst thing to happen in The Farm is that Jane’s daughter suffers an ear infection while her mother languishes upstate in the equivalent of a luxury hotel.

The Farm brims with the potential for an excoriation of capitalist exploitation, for dystopian darkness and sinister consequences, but it miscarries the opportunity. The novel’s central idea invites comparisons with The Handmaid’s Tale or Never Let Me Go, yet it’s nowhere near that literary league. In its timely brush with gender politics and the framework of multi-character perspectives, it has more in common with Naomi Alderman’s 2016 novel The Power. Unlike that feminist sci-fi thriller, the worst thing to happen in The Farm is that Jane’s daughter suffers an ear infection while her mother languishes upstate in the equivalent of a luxury hotel.