Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Book Review: Absolutely Smashing It

By Becky Gulc

‘“SAM! AVA! Get downstairs, NOW. Have you done your TEETH? HAIR? SHOES? Come on, come on, come on, we’re going to be bastarding late again. No, I haven’t seen Lego Optimus Prime, and nor do I give a shit about his whereabouts. Sam, will you stop winding your sister up and take this model of the Shard that I painstakingly sat up and created for you last night so that I wouldn’t be in trouble with your teacher. I mean, so that you wouldn’t be in trouble with your teacher. No, it doesn’t smell of ‘dirty wine’. Well, maybe it does a little bit. Look, Sam, I haven’t got time to argue. Just hold your nose and get in the car, okay? AVA! TEETH! HAIR! SHOES!”

Gemma is only just holding it together – she’s a single parent, she’s turning 40 and her seven-year-old daughter has drawn a cruelly accurate picture which locates Gemma’s boobs somewhere around her knees. So when her new next-door neighbour, Becky, suggests that Gemma should start dating again, it takes a lot of self-control not to laugh in her face.

But Becky is very persuasive and before long Gemma finds herself juggling a full-time job, the increasingly insane demands of the school mums’ Facebook group and the tricky etiquette of a new dating world. Not only that, but Gemma has to manage her attraction to her daughter’s teacher, Tom, who has swapped his life in the City for teaching thirty six to seven year olds spelling, grammar, basic fractions – and why it’s not ok to call your classmate a stinky poo-bum…

It’s going to be a long year – and one in which Gemma and Becky will learn a really crucial lesson: that in the end, being a good parent is just about being good enough.’ (Synopsis courtesy of Little, Brown.)

Absolutely Smashing It is the debut novel by the blogger Kathryn Wallace and whilst I don’t even usually use the word ‘hoot’ I’d summarise this book as a hoot from start to finish!

There are two main characters in the novel, Gemma, a single mum who works full-time; she finds little time for herself. Then there’s Becky who moves in next door with her family. Becky is bored of being a stay-at-home parent and pretty much feels like a single parent given the hours her husband works. Becky is one outgoing vivacious woman and she doesn’t give Gemma much choice in the fact that they’re going to be friends. They’re soon making a pact to improve their lives for the better. This is a friendship that both of them need more than perhaps they realise!

This isn’t a novel I would ordinarily select, I’m just not drawn to novels which suggest they’re going to revolve around parenting and playground politics and I wasn’t familiar with the blog. I’m so glad I was sent this novel for review though because I actually loved it. This is an extremely funny novel, both women have a fantastic sense of humour (particularly Becky) and there are some very comical dating scenes for Gemma. And then there’s Gemma’s daughter Ava; she pretty much says everything you hope your child wouldn’t say in front of people but she’s ever so funny. She also shows she has a lovely heart when her new friend Rosie is going through a difficult time. Loved Ava!

I think the book reflects parenting so well, the daily struggles and guilt, along with the fun side! It’s very reassuring that we all go through the same things! The children were well-rounded and important characters in the novel and this was a strength for me. Tom, the new Year Two teacher, is very dreamy indeed and I was willing him and Gemma to get it together when their chemistry so was written so well! But a novel wouldn’t be the same if it was all plain sailing would it?

The book has likable characters who are striving to get the balance right in their lives and with the help of their new friendship they may just start getting this right, but not without funny moments aplenty. I loved this book and would love to see the characters return in future novels!

Thanks to Sphere for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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