First things first - if you're a guy it might be best to read this with the book flat on a table because I've attracted a huge number of suspicious looks for reading a book so boldly pink-coloured! On the other hand, embrace the femininity if you wish!
Anyway, Clara is a 33 year-old living in suburban London. She is happily married, she thinks, to Robert. She has two children by him, Jack and Charlie, and a wealth of friends and family. She's well-off and distinctly middle-class, as well as being a size 16. You could say that was her life on a plate - but you'd be wrong. As it turns out, there's a lot more to Clara's world than elasticated pants and judgmental school-run mums.
During the course of the book, Clara ponders her existance. Never for too long, mind, but ponder she does. She wants to know if her husband is truly happy in their marriage, if she's the outsider of her extended family, if she's beautiful. This may sound vapid but, underneath the expensive heels and posh bread loafs, Clara is an insecure woman who knows, subconsciously, that her current situation won't last forever.
Clara's friends and family play a large part in making the book as charming as it is. Her sons are hilarious, six-year-old Charlie bandying phrases like "you tiresome retard!" around, and three-year-old Jack letting people know about his post-pee shake. Her friends aren't so typically suburban either. Tamsin is a singleton whose world is rocked by a one-night stand with a poorly-endowed man; Stella is a single mother whose infidelity causes Clara a strange level of grief; Amber finds her god-son's face distressing; and Naomi vows not to react at all to her husband's affair with, as pronounced by Robert and Clara, 'Acne Girl'. Meanwhile Clara's mother Kate (notably always Kate, never 'mum') is high-class and high-maintainance, and, having devoured her way through three marriages, is about to enter into a fourth.
It becomes evident during the course of the book that Clara wants more than her perfectly-content marriage to Robert. What's interesting is that the tiny, seemingly unimportant events are the ones which make Clara realise that all is not what it should or could be; the fact that he gets in a mood about making the kids breakfast, despite having only been asked to do it three times in eight years, and perhaps most eye-openingly (for Clara), the surprise he displays when she loses a little weight and shines in a glamorous dress on the evening of a party. Her attraction to an arrogant Irishman (it's always the way) is perhaps also a factor in the conclusion that her life isn't right. Whilst the conclusion in terms of their marital status is fairly predictable, how it happens isn't; the final few pages took me by surprise - I was expecting something different entirely.
Perhaps most importantly for a comedic book, it's exceptionally funny. I roared with laughter at Clara's intricate details of every day life, particularly her description of the people of Stoke Newington, and the lesbian-look outfit she dons for her visit to her old father-in-law's country manor house. There is the odd flaw - after finding out of Stella's affair, Stella never makes another appearance in the book, despite being one of Clara's best friends. Robert doesn't even bother making an excuse for his absolute lack of desire to spend any time with his children, which seems unlikely. These minor points aside, though, it's an excellent, thoroughly hilarious book which also manages to be thought-provoking. A must.
I first came across India Knight quite a few years ago when I was in a book club called Mango. As I've mentioned before in previous book reviews the deal for joining was you had to buy so many books over a period of years and in return you could choose six books for about 2p each. One of those books was 'Don't You Want Me' by India Knight which I loved. It made me want to read more of her work and I found this book 'My Life On A Plate' on play.com recently for £5.99.
This is actually Knight's first novel (Don't You Want Me? being the second) and I was excited to start reading it as Don't You Want Me? made me laugh out loud on several occasions so I assumed this would be written in the same manner. (more on that in a minute)
This is my account of the book and not the blurb on the back by the way- The book is centered around main character Clara Hutt. She is in her thirties with two sweet little boys and though thinks she is happily married to Robert, she secretly hankers for her freedom and days of dressing up in sexy clothes instead of doing the school run in her pyjama bottoms!
I won't go into detail about the plot too much as I don't want to ruin it for anyone who hasn't read the book, but it is from the first few pages quite predictable how it is all going to pan out.
Yes it is a bit predictable; but so what? It is chick lit (at it's finest) and if you are wanting a fairly funny, light hearted (most of the time) read then you can't go wrong with this.
As I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, I expected it to be like her other novel which was very funny in a smutty way, however though this was a very entertaining read and I did smile quite a bit, there were no mad outbursts of laughter which disappointed me slightly.
I would recommend this book though if you haven't read it.
Author- India Knight
Length of book- 247 pages
Published by Penguin books in 2000
Price- £7.99 RRP but I paid £5.99 from play.com
I've mentioned in a couple of other reviews that my dad gave me a huge bag full of paperbacks that he'd picked up from charity shops, car boot sales and the like for me, and I am slowly working my way through them. As they were all second hand a lot of them were quite a few years old, like this one, first published in 2000. Unlike some of the others though, I had actually heard of this book, and remember it got a lot of good reviews and praise when it came out.
Clara Hutt is a 33 year old mother of two living in London with her husband Robert, whom she has been married to for eight years.
On the surface Clara has it all - a big beautiful house, gorgeous husband, adorable children. Apart from her worries that she is a bad mother for doing the school run wearing her pyjamas and constantly having to deal with a mother who always puts her down, her life looks pretty perfect - so why is she still not completely happy?
Aside from being exhausted from running around after her sons, she is feeling her marriage to Robert has lost it's sparkle. Will she be able to inject the fun back into her love life?
~What I thought~
Well firstly writing the plot summary was extremely difficult for one reason - there isn't really a plot! It's hard to describe but this book is really just telling you about Clara's day to day life, her friends and her somewhat eccentric family.
There are no major events in the book really, Clara works part time as a journalist and gets to interview a modern dance star, an interview which goes horribly wrong, and at one point we wonder if she might fancy him a little bit, but that's as exciting as it gets in terms of plot - apart from one twist at the end, but obviously as it's at the end I can't tell you! Typical!
Aside from this, I actually found this to be a fairly enjoyable read and got through it in one sitting, which is unusual for me, although I think it was more to do with the fact it was Sunday night and work was dead, so I had nothing better to do (yes that's right I'm allowed to read books at work and still get paid for it - the joys of night shift). The book is quite funny and I'm sure most mothers reading it will identify with it in some way or another, but I personally found the character of Clara likeable but annoying. She would often talk about how she feels smug and superior because she has a husband and some of her friends are still single. My overall feeling was that she was just pretty ungrateful that she's living in a beautiful house with a husband who gives her money for clothes and takes her on weekends to Paris.
Another thing I must mention is that at a couple of points I was a bit surprised by some of the jokes in there - there were quite a few uses of the word 'spastic' as an insulting term and a joke about downs syndrome which was totally unnecessary and I have no idea why it was put in there or why anyone agreed to publish it. Personally I was a little bit shocked, but I can see others would take quite a lot of offence to it.
Anyway, this book can be purchased for £5.99 from Amazon. Although I thought it was OK and written in an easy to read style, it wasn't really my thing. I know this book is supposed to be very popular, and I toyed between giving it two or three stars. I've given it two , but if it was possible I might just have given it 2.5.
I have read this book countless times, somehow if I pick it up to flick through it in an idle moment, it sucks me in and I have to read it all over again!
Clara is a thirty something with a nice husband, two lovely sons, a large, dysfunctional and entertaining extended family. Of course, a life that looks pretty good on paper can be unsatisfying to the person leading it, and as the book unfolds, Clara realises that she is actually rather unhappy with her lot.
Not that this is a down beat book in any way - on the contrary, it may well make you snort with laughter. India Knight is extremely witty and always readable. Her characters manage to inhabit a middle class existence while simultaneously poking fun at it. I think many women could identify with Clara, who misses the days of dressing up in little sexy dresses, long forgotten after two children and a slightly chaotic life.
Somehow this former party girl as ended up with friends who read Good housekeeping, a kitchen full of greying knickers hanging up to dry, and a husband who may be a best friend, but has somewhat ceased to be a lover.
This book includes the inevitable make-over scenes, a smouldering stranger (in classic style, of course, Clara is rude to him and refuses to admit she might like him a little bit) and some very funny observations about marriage, singles, child rearing and people in general. Which makes a refreshing change from the usual chick lit which involves an impossibly glamorous lifestyle. Clara works for a magazine, yes, but she also tells interviewees that she used their press cuttings as bedding for her hamsters.
Having said that, the book is resolutely set in the world of media parties, weekend trips to Paris and gay best friends, so it's not without its own brand of glamour, if that's your bag.
I often see this book in charity shops and I always wonder "Who would give this book away?!" If you see it, snap it up!
I have to confess that I had never heard of India Knight before, but a friend of mine lent me the book to take on holiday. I couldn't put it down! The story is about a thirty something woman, happily married (she assumes) with two kids, a part time job and a normalish husband. Humdrum you may think, but there are some really funny moments in the book, and also some quite poignant ones, which gives the book a nice mixture.Although it is written in an easy to follow format, some of the incidents and thought processes that the main character experiences really touched a chord with me. I found the ending a little surprising, but not completely unbelievable. For anyone who feels a bit stuck in a rut, this is an ideal read.It certainly makes you question certain things, and also makes you grateful for others. This probably makes the book seem a bit heavy going, but it isn't. Read it or miss out!
I had wanted to read this book for a while, ever since I heard India interviewed on radio 4 (on ou way back from France), and there was also a piece about her wardrobe (contents of) in Marie Claire. I could just so identify with the main character of the book, Clara. Married, 30's, kids, georgous husband, size 16 etc.etc; but still not satisfied. Apart from some really funny bits (paticularly when describing a visiting toddler) it didn't really draw me in, until near the end. Some bits were so dull and slow (like real life, actually!) I could put it down and forget about it for days, without any urge to pick it back up. Without giving it away, the ending was disappointing, and left me feeling flat and full of negativity. Not a 'feel good' book.
I was drawn to this book as I regularly read India Knight's columns in The Times. This is a very easy to read book which deals with the day to day life of Clara Hutt. Clara has a nice house, two cute children and a part-time job. This is in reality an ordinary tale of most women who feel they are stuck in a rut, who want more from their lives and spend time feeling paranoid about getting larger less sexy etc! The book has some great parts which will almost make you weep with laughter(when after spending a harrassing morning getting kids ready for school she arrives at the school gate without realising she still has her pyjama bottoms on) and some other anecdotes which may make you step back and examine your own liestyle. My Life On a Plate is certainly easy-reading and would be ideal material for holiday reading.