Could YOU handle it if your loveable but overbearing mother (and her lover!) moved into your house with you? How about if your somewhat bad-news friend was also back in town, and trying to drag you into her relationship drama? Or if your latest blind date wouldn't take 'no' for an answer? Welcome to Cass's life.
Cass is a widowed mother of two who owns an antiques shop, sings in a choir, and knows people with dubious names like Welsh Alf and Allan and Mrs Allan. That's not your typical profile for the lead in a flitty, flirty chick-lit tome, but Cass is the woman who puts the (sort of) cool in choral singing, and has a warm personality that wins you over immediately however similar or dissimilar your life is to hers.
The book focuses a lot of different relationships; mother-daughter, partners, friends, even pets. Cass and Fee fall into the broad category of grown-ups older than me but below retirement age. Though we know Cass has two 20-something children (who we never see), and we do find out the women's ages at one point, it's not something you tend to remember as you read, though they are clearly both at a stage where they think Archers is a drink and not a radio soap. Similarly, Cass's mother must be old-ish, but isn't the frail, decrepit kind of grandmother (nor the typical Edwina-from-AbFab-type character you might be expecting from the blurb on the back). Depending on your age, I suppose you could see either Cass or her mother as you yourself, your own mother, or even your grandmother.
Then there's the choir's week abroad about half way through. With delicious descriptions of the Mediterranean jaunt to rival those in your typical Kate Cann novel this is a wonderful book to lose yourself in, and whatever the weather outside, you'll feel like you're there in the sizzling Cyprus heat enjoying the soap opera storyline lives of Cass and the gang. And what a gang it is - the book has a surprisingly large cast of supporting characters, from hotel managers to choir members to long lost daughters, but they're all sufficiently developed, and you can easily keep track of who's who.
For the most part, the book is good. It's funny most of the time, slipping to mildly amusing or reaching downright hilarious in parts. It's realistic without being mundane, exciting without being far-fetched. Something you can relate to, but not predict. In fact, this is one of the least predictable books I've read recently, with some brilliant twists to make you gasp and/or giggle. The author's continued obsession with who pays for what leaves a little to be desired, but otherwise it's a winner. It's one you'll whizz through, but that's hardly a bad thing.
Amazon have it for a penny, but it's more the sort I'd put on a charity shop to-find list. I got my copy from the Bookbag where this review first appeared.
'Keeping Mum' by Kate Lawson has actually been sitting on my 'to read' pile for quite a while and I was prompted to pick it up and read it after reading another book by the same author that I really enjoyed. 'Keeping Mum' was an earlier novel and although I did enjoy reading it, I didn't love it in the same way as I did the other one. Having said that though it is a light easy read and would be totally suitable for summer holiday reading.
The title and the blurb (What do you do when Mum's behaving badly...?)are slightly misleading as they lead you to think it's all about a woman whose elderly mother moves in with her and is behaving like a teenager. It's true that Cass's mum Nita and her somewhat younger partner do move in with her on a temporary basis they don't really behave that badly and most of the story takes place in Cyprus where Cass goes to take part in a competition with her local choir. Once you accept that it is a pretty enjoyable read and shouldn't take long.
To fill in the background, Cass is a young widow with two sons who are both away at university. Her mother's biggest misdemeanour is probably trying to match make for Cass who isn't interested anyway. Apart from that she is a reasonable caring mum and actually very helpful when she moves in and looks after Cass's shop when she goes away. Cass's life is probably more complicated by her friend and fellow choir member Fiona who tries to involve her in her relationship problems. When Fiona thinks that her partner Andy is having an affair she asks Cass to spy on him. Things get quite difficult particularly as they all head off to Cyprus. The story moves along quite nicely though and there is even the possibility of some romance for Cass.
Although this is not the best book I have ever read, it did hold my interest and I enjoyed reading it. I liked Cass as a central character and I did feel quite sorry for her, especially because of the way Fiona treated her. Fiona, on the other hand, is a most unlikeable character and I did not feel sorry for her at all. There was also a host of fun and interesting minor characters who added something extra. I particularly liked the contribution of some of the choir members especially when they all get drunk - just before a performance.
I did have one major gripe about this book though and that is mainly directed at the publisher rather than the author. I was happily reading towards the end thinking that I still had about twenty pages to go when I turned over the page and realised that I was at the end. The last twenty pages involved the first chapter of another Kate Lawson book. This really annoys me when this happens and I felt really cheated. I felt that there should have been more and although the ending was OK it was a bit abrupt for my liking.
Overall this book makes for light summer reading, won't take too long and won't tax your brain too much. I don't know about you but sometimes that is just the sort of book that I need! The paperback is currently available on Amazon for £4.84 (June 2010) where I note that it claims that the book has 368 pages. Well, yes it has, but actually 'Keeping Mum' only has 340!