By Julia Leigh Penguin Random House

At the age of 38 acclaimed novelist Julia Leigh made her first visit to the IVF clinic, full of hope. So started a long and costly undertaking of nightly injections, blood tests, surgeries and rituals.

Writing in the immediate aftermath of her decision to stop treatment, Leigh lays bare the truths of her experience: the highs of hope and the depths of disappointment; the grip of yearning and desire; the toll on her relationships; the unexpected graces and moments of black humour. Along the way she navigates the science of IVF; copes with the impact of treatment; and reconciles the seductive promises of the worldwide multi-billion-dollar IVF industry with reality.

Avalanche is the book that’s finally been written on IVF treatment: a courageous, compelling and ultimately wise account of a profoundly important and widespread experience. At the heart of this work is an exploration of who and how we love. It’s a story we can all relate to – about the dreams we have, defeated or otherwise, for ourselves, our loves and relationships.

Julia Leigh

Julia Leigh is the author of two internationally acclaimed and widely translated novels, The Hunter (1999) and Disquiet (2008). Her film Sleeping Beauty was nominated for the Palme D’Or at the Festival de Cannes 2011. She lives in Sydney, Australia.

Judges' report

In her first work of nonfiction, novelist and filmmaker Julia Leigh tells the story of what would become a gruelling series of IVF attempts in her late thirties: “I did this knowing that no matter how hard I hoped, no matter what I tried, chances were I’d never have a child”. The attempt to become a mother outlasts her marriage and governs a great deal of her life. Subtitled “A Love Story”, Avalanche is as much about the desire to be a mother and maternal love as it is a clear-eyed account of a love affair gone wrong and an investigation of a medical industry that trades on hope. Leigh is just as scrupulous about holding her own feelings and choices up to the light as she is in raising questions about the gulf between the promises and hard data of the for-profit IVF industry. In writing one of the first literary treatments of IVF, Leigh creates a lyrical, clear-eyed account that cuts through to the core of an emotionally complex, sometimes obscured subject that is of great significance today.

Further reading


‘Avalanche is a riveting account of her experience with IVF and a reflection on an industry that profits from a woman’s diminishing fertility.’  Gretchen Shrim, the Sydney Morning Herald

‘Leigh fears the encroachment of a child on her creative life, but as she reckons with childlessness in Avalanche she resists silence, and in doing so charts an area of women’s experience that is usually left unspoken (and certainly omitted from the glossy brochures stacked neatly in the reception rooms of IVF providers). In this, she keeps company with Maggie Nelson and Rachel Cusk, whose memoirs of maternity are not populated by happy heteronormative families.’  Catriona Menzies-Pike, Sydney Review of Books

‘In its enmeshment of the exquisite and the blunt, the memoir, written soon after Leigh’s decision to stop in vitro fertilisation treatment, finds reflective gentleness and fury.’ Felicity Plunkett, The Australian