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  • Catriona Fida

The Panic Years



“The Panic Years: something between adolescence and menopause, a personal crisis, a transformation.” The Panic Years is an account from author and journalist, Nell Frizzell, about the myriad of decisions women are faced with when approaching their late twenties/early thirties. From the writer’s own perspective she broaches topics including friendships, careers, partners and the pressure to have children.


Although the writing style was at times rambling, on the whole I enjoyed the meandering prose and visceral descriptions. The author also does a great job at weaving complex conversations like contraception and how the panic years affect het women differently to trans people and/or those in wlw relationships. In my view, this book is largely targeted towards cis het women (since that is Frizzell’s own experience), but I did appreciate the author’s attempts at including others in the conversation.


Unfortunately, though, The Panic Years failed to live up to what I expected/wanted it to be. I assumed it would be a general overview on the pressures some women face towards the end of their twenties to get married, have children, potentially sacrifice their careers, but instead it reads like a memoir of the author’s own panic years. At points this was interesting, but it didn’t help much with my own feelings about entering my mid-twenties. Maybe I wouldn’t have had an issue with this if I aligned more closely with the narrator’s point of view, but I couldn't relate to her at all and as a reader I often felt alienated.


Additionally, there was one specific thing that made this book uncomfy to read for me. Throughout, the author talks about how she always knew she wanted to be a mother, but she describes at length how her partner at the time didn’t want children and how she wore him down until he agreed to try for a baby. That felt icky, worryingly coercive, and probably should have been left in the first draft.


Reading this book made me realise that I’m still a baby and not ready for conversations about motherhood yet. So, I suppose it did teach me something. Apart from that though, would not recommend. There are so many books on this subject that I think you can find better out there -— perhaps one with a more objective outlook.



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