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Kate Hunter is happily married to husband Robert, and together they have two children. They have a lovely home on the posh Prendergast Road in London, but it isn't enough for Kate. She is desperate for her son Findlay to get into illustrious St Anthony's, the best school around and the one where all her friends are vying for places. But beneath all the false pleasantries and pretence, Kate and all of her friends have their own reasons for being miserable. Will they open up to their friends about their real dilemmas or is putting on a brave face more important than letting each other know they're only human?
I haven't read any Sarah May novels before but I do know people who have read her previous book The Rise and Fall of the Queen of Suburbia and have enjoyed it. Therefore I was hoping that I'd enjoy this one. Labelled as a 'darkly comic tale', the book promised humour, a peek into the lives of the well-to-do families of London, and how far these people are prepared to go to get their children where they want them to be. It sounded like it was going to be a very enjoyable read, and it was that, but just be aware that this definitely isn't light-hearted 'chick lit' at all, it's much deeper and more serious than that.
As soon as I started reading the book, I was very quickly into the story as the main character of Kate was very likeable and I liked how the author launched into home life at the Hunter's, complete with doolally mother-in-law Margery. The first couple of chapters were fairly amusing but the comedy quickly dropped out in favour of saddening twists and turns, miserable and depressed characters and very coniving people who really set out to lie and deceive each other. Although the characters themselves weren't all that likeable, you could see why they were behaving in this manner because the place at that particular school was important to them, but I personally just couldn't see why they couldn't be honest with each other considering they were such close friends...a real case of keeping up appearances here!
I did feel very sorry for Kate throughout the book, it was clear that she was suffering some form of depression as she kept forgetting her own daughter existed and was struggling financially as well as emotionally, and I felt perhaps the author was using this more a comic tool than as seriously as it should have been. Her husband Robert was clearly having trouble as well, which at first started as something funny but soon because serious like the rest of the book, although the change in his tone was fully understandable. The characters were very well written and I did enjoy their stories, albeit even if their lives did seem a tad bleak!
The book covers a period of three months from April through to June, and I found the focus on the characters changed through this period as well. It started off being completely about Kate's family but as the book moved into May, and then June, Kate's family was seldom mentioned and we followed the lives of other families in the road. I felt that this was a nice change but unfortunately they were more depressing than Kate, and certainly more mixed up and there just seemed no end to the sadness for the families. It would have been nice to see a light at the end of the tunnel at some point, but at least the book seemed to continue along the same vein throughout.
It's well written which does make you want to keep reading, but I did find myself hoping hard more than once for something nice to happen to the families of Prendergast Road! Although there are quite a lot of characters in the book because it follows different families, I didn't find it too hard to follow as I have done in the past with similar books because the characters were easily identifiable. I did enjoy the read and Sarah May has produced a good grown-up read here, delving deep into the world of elitist schools and how these high expectations effect those aiming for those places.
ISBN: 978-0007232338. Published by Harper Collins in December 2008. Paperback has 384 pages.
Thank you for reading.
This review has also appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk
After managing to work my through the books I received off my mum for my birthday, (my mum bought me the entire twilight series!), I decided to start the books my sister brought for me, hence the review.
The book I will now review is - "The rise and fall of a domestic diva, by Sarah May"
I have a terrible habit of judging a book by it's cover, so when I first saw this book I was more than hopeful of a great read, the cover is vibrant and eye catching in colour and design with the tag line that this book is a "black hearted soap opera" and also likened to Desperate housewives, I suddenly felt ready for a change from reading about vampires and their love lives....well, for as long as it takes my sister to read them!
This book is a hard one to review due to the amount of characters and stories that are going on all at the same time.
The story is centred around the up and coming street that is Prendergast road and all the families that live on there.
The story starts with Kate and her long suffering husband Robert, they live centrally on Prendergast road, this means that they are literally a few house outside the catchments are for the best school in the borough, this being St Antony's, they have two children Findlay and Flo.
At this point of the book I feel quite sorry for the character Kate, though I am not sure that that is the reaction the author had intended, I myself having two young children, a house to run and a career to attend to, I know how hard it is on a day to day basis, I was at this point expecting some hilarious and poignant moments based around this set up, I am still waiting!
From what I can gather, and even though I have finished the book now I am still decidedly clueless about some of the families in this story, there is a pecking order to the families.
The families that are currently sitting pretty at the top of the list are the supposedly animal friendly, organic eating, terry towelling nappy supporting, environmentally friendly Miles and Ros, with there dyspraxic daughter Aggie, she hasn't actually got anything wrong with her but feel that she may get into St Antony's if there is some ailment involved.
This is were it starts to get silly and very confusing......
I really don't want to spoil this book for anyone else so will go over no plot now, needless to say I personally didn't like this book at all.
The part that really got my back up, so to speak, was where Kate, seemingly tired and over worked, started leaving her baby Flo lying in her car seat at the side of a road when fetching the eldest child from nursery, or when her child doesn't get into a the school so starts trying to sell her house and buying another that is actually inside the catchments area without discussing anything with her husband.
This made me angry, are there people out there that think this is acceptable, by god there are good few of us that live there life's like this on a daily basis, and touch wood, I have yet to leave my baby in the middle of a street!
Ok, so maybe I am over reacting, but the book made the characters so weak, and not in a human frailty way, every character was flawed, which I can understand, but nearly all of them were completely insane!
There are no explanations of what happens to the families and seemingly no apologies for that fact, the families mentioned just keep bumbling along as they did at the beginning of the book, in my opinion a pretty pointless read!
For more information visit - www.bookarmy.com
This book is available from Amazon and was originally purchased from Asda for the sum of £4.00.
As you may have gathered I didn't like this book one bit, not recommended!
Thanks for reading x
I do read a lot, and I recently saw this book in the chart is my local bookstore, and on the cover it has a quote from Elle magazine and on described on the back cover as "the perfect read" by Penny Smith. So I purchased it.
The cover also labels this as a 'darkly comic tale', and the story centres about the families living on Prendergast Road, who all have a four year old, and are all trying to get their child an admission place in the best school in the area, and how far they would go to acheive this.
This book definitely isn't light-hearted and humourous and if the title make this book sound like a girly 'chick lit' title, it really isn't. It is very deep, and very serious stuff.
The book starts fairly light, but then suddenly things turn very serious and you are continually reading miserable and depressed characters, and people lying and cheating to get one over on each other, and towards the end of the book things are even more sinister with drug abuse and an attempted suicide, and the way these are written, I don't feel is in a sympathic way as if to raise social awareness, it's as if these things are just added in for effect.
None of the characters themselves are that likeable, but you can see, although you won't agree with it, that they are behaving in this manner because they want their kids to get a place at the "right" school. It is all about appearances and "keeping up with the neighbours"
The main character Kate is suffering from depression but it makes for uncomfortable reading, as she keeps forgetting her own daughter exists and keeps leaving behind in places.
The book is very bleak and although it covers the period around school admissions, and "New Parent evenings" ( April to June), it does go off at tangents as it starts being completely about The Hunters (Kates family), but then later on they are barely mentioned.
There are quite a few families mentioned in this book and I did hope for a happy ending or a bit of light relief for one of them, but it never seemed to come.
In all honesty if you asked me did I like this book the honest answer is probably be "No". Just when I started to get into it the book was finished and although it does have an Epilogue at the end of the book it doesn't really tie up all the loose ends and cover what happens to every character.