A couple of months ago I read The School Run by Sophie King and really enjoyed it so I decided to look out for more books by this author and a few of her titles made their way on to my Amazon wish list! As a consequence, when it was my birthday a few weeks ago my husband bought me Mums@Home which I have just finished reading.
The book is quite unusual in the fact that it is all about four people who stumble across a website which provides a forum for parents to discuss all sorts of issues, and although most of the book is written as a straightforward narrative, there are times when you are faced with a number of postings and messages from the website. This takes a bit of getting used to at first but it does add a different interesting dimension to the book.
The story follows four parents who all have a different story to tell and a different reason for seeking support from the website. Firstly there is Caroline who has three teenage children and is trying to come to terms with the knowledge that her husband had an affair. Susan struggles every day to bring up her severely disabled daughter Tabitha on her own. Her only solace is the day centre which she attends with Tabitha but that is in danger of closing. Lisa calls herself 'expectent mum' (her spelling!) and having already lost two babies is terrified of miscarrying again. And finally there is Mark who is bringing up his two children alone whilst trying to keep secret what has really happened to their mum. He also believes that he might not be able to talk as openly as he would like on the forum if it is known that he is a man so he calls himself Mimi!
The book follows the stories of each of the four parents as they do their best to bring up their children. They are all separate people who do not know each other but by one of two strange coincidences their paths do start to cross. Things are also not quite what they might seem and there were definitely a few surprises for the reader as the various stories unfolded.
Each parent's story is quite poignant and, particularly as a mum myself, I really did feel for them. All of these main characters are extremely likeable and I did find myself becoming quite caught up in all of the different storylines.
However, this was not the case right from the start though as I did find the book quite slow to get going and near the beginning I did find my attention waning a little. At that point, I did remember that I had felt the same at the start of The School Run. Both books are definitely worth persevering with as you gradually find yourself being drawn into a completely absorbing story.
There are lots of different themes running through Mums@Home such as betrayal, love, friendship and despair. I'm sure that lots of mums would identify with at least some of the characters in the book and some of the trials and tribulations that they go through. This is of course also a very twenty first century type of book if you think about it as, writing about a website such as this would not have even been thought of ten years ago - how times move on!
I really do recommend this book but you should be prepared to give it a chance to get going. It is just over 400 pages long and the paperback has a RRP of £6.99 although it6 is available on Amazon for £5.49.
I will pretty much read anything and everything. In fact I think there is only one book that I have ever started and failed to finish reading - that was a Stephen King novel called Insomnia. I kept falling asleep (I know that sounds like a joke, but it's true, honest!)
So when I got a chick-lit type book from my sister at Christmas, I started reading it almost immediately as I had just finished a P.J. O'Rourke book and I thought it would make a change.....sometimes after a week of rich food, you just want scrambled eggs for dinner.
I had never heard of the writer, Sophie King, but the praise for her previous book on the back cover was encouraging. Her dedications made me smile and I started reading with an open mind and full of optimism.
The premise of the book centres round the mums@home website and four of its subscribers, all with very different stories.
Caroline works for a lifestyle magazine, her husband had an affair but says it's over and they are "making a go of it" for the sake of their three children. She starts making uncharacteristic mistakes at work, she's worried about her elder daughter who is travelling during her gap year and is dissatisfied by a marriage now totally devoid of affection.
Mark works freelance in PR and is temporarily bringing up his two children single-handedly. He is struggling to cope with the demands of work and home despite some well-intentioned help from his mother-in-law, his son is not settling in at his new school and his daughter is increasingly suspicious of his explanations regarding their mother's absence.
Lisa works in a nursery and wants a child of her own more than anything. She has the nursery decorated, the babygros washed and ironed; she's a little unsure of her exact date, but now she's just waiting...
Susan looks after her disabled daughter by herself. She has never stopped blaming her ex-husband for Tabitha's condition, but when he reappears with his new wife and wants to see his daughter again, this gives Susan an unexpected opportunity to build a new life for herself.
For some reason or another, they all end up logging on to the mums@home website and meeting on the internet. Eventually both their virtual and actual existences merge and their lives become intertwined...
This book failed to inspire me. It lacked the humour that I expected, although there were incidents that made me smile, there were certainly no "laugh-out-loud" moments.
Perhaps it was because there wasn't a singular main character to concentrate on, but four separate (but linked) storylines, I felt that the personalities weren't developed enough and apart from one incident, I never really felt any empathy with the characters.
May be I am just an old cynic but it just seemed unlikely that in the hundreds and thousands of internet users that these people's paths would cross in this way. I know it is fiction but it was all just a bit "convenient".
I found the website and e-mail "sound bites" at the end of some of the chapters a minor irritation and don't feel that they added much substance to the plot.
At £6.99 RRP, I would recommend visiting your local library if you have not been put off by my review. Also available from £0.01 plus postage on Amazon.
The story rolled along well enough and there was just about enough to keep me interested, but I certainly won't be reading this again. I'll award a slightly generous 3 stars.
(This rerview has previously been posted on Ciao by me under the same username carcraig)