Tuesday, 13 March 2018

The Cows by Dawn O'Porter: Review

Cows don’t need to follow the herd...

Dawn O’Porter’s highly entertaining novel follows the lives of three women facing some very pertinent issues.

TV exec and single mother Tara finds her life unexpectedly in tatters after a video of an ill-judged “private” moment on a train goes viral, resulting in massive public humiliation.

Cam, the author of a wildly successful (and lucrative) straight-talking blog, accidentally becomes “The Face of Childfree Women” after blogging about her choice not to have children, and faces a backlash as a result. (Incidentally this is something I will never understand. I do have children and am very happy about it, but why on earth anyone should be criticised for not having or wanting them is beyond me. Seems to me not wanting children is an excellent reason for not having any - pressurising anybody into doing so seems deeply misguided.)

And finally Stella, who works as PA to Jason, a successful photographer, is grieving the loss of her mother and twin sister, and dealing with her own terrifyingly high risk of developing the cancer that took their lives. Stella does want a baby, but with both health and relationship difficulties staring her in the face, how on earth is she going to achieve that? It's time to take control...

The Cows is a hugely enjoyable read which deals with some very topical issues facing women. It’s not the first story I’ve read recently in which a woman is publicly shamed for her sexuality, but it’s very well done. What happens to Tara is appalling but also quite believable, at least in terms of the public response, in which she is both delightedly mocked and widely condemned - not only for the incident but for her other life choices too, once they come to light. It’s horrific.

Cam is also a great character who is determined to live her life the way she wants, and largely succeeds, even though others (her mother, for one) don't always understand why she is the way she is. Her blogs seek to inspire and empower women, and usually do, though she misses the mark at times (it shouldn’t take a huge amount of sensitivity to notice that a statement like “My womb is what makes me a woman” might not go down well in some quarters.... women who've had hysterectomies, just as a for instance).

And Stella - well, Stella goes off the deep end to a point where the story does become a bit absurd, as she goes to some extreme lengths to achieve her goal.

There are some brilliant set pieces here (Tara’s dad’s birthday dinner, during which the mostly elderly attendees start recounting their own al fresco sexual experiences, was a delight). And some very spot-on observations about current society. Towards the end, something shocking and unexpected happens, and this threw me off balance a bit - I wasn’t quite sure why it was necessary in terms of the story and kind of wished it hadn’t happened...

Overall a fantastic read, highly recommended.

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