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Stella Smith is the busy working mother of a young son. Constantly frustrated and angered by the images of beautiful svelte like mums who lose their baby fat within weeks and never have a hair out of place, she sets out to champion the women who just about cope with motherhood but have little time for anything else. She sets up the ''Mums Like Us'' group and before she barely knows what is happening, her cause becomes a national phenomenon.
Stella Smith is fed up of the expectation that mums should be superwomen. She feels that there are certain women, who appear to have achieved perfection in terms of motherhood, that make all other mums feel inept and inferior. She feels that realism is best and that to strive to be 'good enough' is what most mums should aspire to. That is why she sets up the 'Mums Like Us' group that meets weekly in her messy kitchen and rejoices in slovenliness, messy clothes and overeating.
The book follows the group through a year of madness and mayhem that sees the club gain worldwide recognition and takes Stella to the White House as well as being arrested during a march. Throughout the year, she does battle with another group calling themselves the 'Mother Superiors' who reject Stella's ambition of ''good enough'' and point out that she is letting her fellow women down.
It sounds as if this book should be a lot of fun and at times it is very funny. However, there are a few reasons why I felt let down as I was reading it. Firstly, I did not like the way that the book was written. It is not your typical narrative and reads like a weekly column in a newspaper or a blog. Many of the chapters are meant to be Stella addressing the meeting and recounting on the weekly happenings. Therefore it is only her voice and there is no interaction with any other characters unless reported by her. Some chapters are from Stella's husband, Matt, and here we get him emailing his mates with whom he has set up Dads United, a new and somewhat unfit football team. There is a also no interaction with other characters in these.
I really wanted to like this book because I do think that the author, Lisa Kemp, has a very good point to make about how the media celebration that notion of perfection in new mothers. I think that there is nothing wrong with the idea of being 'just good enough", as that is what most mums can just about manage, but the idea does seem to be taken to the extreme. This is illustrated by the way Stella encourages her fellow club members to eat unhealthy food, take no care over this appearance and to actually celebrate going out with your child's food and dribble all over you.
Most of the time that I was reading, it felt like the author had a huge chip on her shoulder and that the book was an excuse o have a rant at anyone who managed motherhood better than her. Because of this, Stella was not a character that I felt any warmth towards and, as a consequence, I disliked her intensely. I particularly disliked the liberal use of the F word throughout he book. Its use felt entirely unnecessary to me.
There were some moments in the book that I enjoyed but, overall, it was not a satisfying read and left me disappointed.
This book review has previously appeared under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk
I really enjoy it when I have a good debut novel to look forward to, and Mums Like Us sounded just like my cup of tea when I read the synopsis on Amazon. As I've mentioned before, I love books about parenting so this sounded a perfect read for me. I have to say I really wasn't taken by the cover when I first saw it at all - it's bland and quite dull, and certainly isn't a book cover that would make me want to pick up the book in a shop which is a shame. However, I was willing not to judge the book by its cover and eagerly started it, and the quote from Milly Johnson on the front cover and press release made me even more excited to get stuck in!
The book began quite well, although from the beginning I struggled to get over the very bizarre narrative that I just did not like at all. It was written in the first person from the point of view of Stella, the chairwoman of 'Mums Like Us', a new mums club based around the idea that no mother is perfect and we're all just getting by! The narrative is addressing the members of the club, which is really weird and I found it hard to like it, I couldn't settle into it and that was a shame right from the beginning. She was directly addressing them throughout, even so far as to point out where the biscuits were in her kitchen and other things that just didn't work for me.
Oddly though, Stella's husband Matt makes infrequent posts throughout the book, on his dad's football club blog and I really enjoyed these. Actually, I enjoyed these much more than Stella's story, and for some reason, his narrative worked so well. He was funny, and kind and I really liked Matt. Stella on the other hand, well. She tries to be the 'every woman' but I just didn't like her. Yes, some of the things she said ran true for me but others were written just to be inflammatory or to really poke fun at the mum's who do like to dress up, have the best for their kids, and I didn't particularly enjoy that side of it, although I have to confess 'smugaboo' did make me giggle.
My really huge problem with the book was its unrealistic story and progression. Stella went from being a normal mum doing normal things with her life, to a virtual media magnate, with exclusive access to the Prime Minister (!!), appearances on national television and a million pound selling calendar, all in a ridiculously small space of time and for silly reasons. I found myself getting more and more annoyed by it as I was reading, and there were times I was ready to give up on it. Yes, I know it's fiction, but I like a certain amount of believability in my books and I didn't feel that was there at all in this book. I disliked Stella the more I read on, and as things got completely silly, I just wanted to get to the end simply so I would know how the loose ends would be tied up, and also what would happen to Matt, probably the only one in the book I liked.
I was so disappointed by this book, especially as I had such high hopes for it. I found the narrative annoying, the main character particularly detestable and I didn't enjoy how unrealistic it was at all. As I said, I do know its fiction but it really wasn't for me simply because it wasn't a believable look at a parenting club, much like other books I've read on the subject. While it was at times funny, and I could relate to several of the parenting quips made in the book and I did laugh a few times, the bad far outweighed the good for me and I was left with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth afterwards. Sadly, it wasn't a debut novel I enjoyed that much, and would struggle to recommend! :(
ISBN: 978-0099574583. Published by Arrow on 28th February 2013. RRP: £6.99. Also available as an eBook.
Thank you for reading, and to the publishers for sending me a copy to review.