Friday, February 24, 2023

Book Review: You Be Mother

By Becky Gulc

If you’re like me every so often you’ll stumble across recommendations from trusted reviewers and book lovers on social media that just jump off the page, they manage to sell a book to you in so few words and without looking much into it, you just have to get hold of it. You Be Mother is one of those books. I don’t think I’d select this book ordinarily but I’m so glad I was introduced to this one. So what’s it all about?

What do you do, when you find the perfect family... and it's not yours?

The only thing Abi ever wanted was a proper family. So when she falls pregnant by an Australian exchange student in London, she cannot pack up her old life in Croydon fast enough, to start all over in Sydney and make her own family.

It is not until she arrives, with three-week-old Jude in tow, that Abi realises Stu is not quite ready to be a father after all. And he is the only person she knows in this hot, dazzling, confusing city, where the job of making friends is turning out to be harder than she thought.

That is, until she meets Phyllida, her wealthy, charming, imperious older neighbour, and they become almost like mother and daughter. If only Abi had not told Phil that teeny tiny small lie, the very first day they met...’ (Synopsis courtesy of Waterstones.)

This is a wonderful novel and I was truly immersed in Abi’s world as she navigates the early days of motherhood in another country. Abi is pragmatic, strong but vulnerable, calm, and such a good mother to Jude. As a reader, I really felt for her as we learn how difficult her upbringing was; how she’d carried on regardless as best she could and never felt sorry for herself. The backstory of Abi and her family was quietly introduced throughout the novel and it was very moving and sad at times, particularly towards the end of the novel (without including any spoilers).

As the synopsis outlines, life in Sydney isn’t straightforward. Whilst Abi appears to be a natural mother, Stu finds it more difficult to adapt from being a free-agent to suddenly being a father and partner and still studying for the future he wants. Throw in a controlling mother/mother-in-law and Abi has her work cut out for her in Sydney.

Abi meets Phil, an older neighbour, and I loved their relationship; a friendship built on perhaps mutual loneliness and longing for the mother/daughter relationship that was lacking in their ‘real’ everyday lives. But Phil has children, they’re just not in Australia and will Abi still be as important to Phil when they’re back on the scene? And with Abi not being forthcoming about her own true situation after a misunderstanding, is this a relationship that can last?

It's not straightforward. I was bereft at times and I questioned the actions of both Abi and Phil, wanting to bang their heads together! Many of the characters could be frustrating, but they were all raw and all felt very real! I couldn’t have been happier with the closing chapters; just perfect, perfect. I was almost reminded of one of my very favourite pieces of literary fiction when I read this book, I know the book, the locations, and the characters will stay with me for a long time to come. Meg Mason is definitely an author to try if you haven’t already.

More by Meg Mason:

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