Thanks to NetGalley for this book.
I remember I read Ainslie Hogarth's Motherthing and thought it was a bit here and there. I found the concept good and the black comedy quite clever, but on the whole something was lacking. It was as if the writing was not all that great or the characters were common tropes I had seen a thousand times before. Then it sort of hit me. Where I thought Motherthing should be in terms of genre were books that had better writing. Books like Mrs March by Virginia Feito are much better examples of black comedy in women's fiction. I thought I would give Ainslie Hogarth another go though, knowing there was another book coming out by her. This book is entitled Normal Women and has still left me with mixed feelings sitting on the fence about her. I cannot quite place it - but it feels a little cliché and all the characters are wholly unlikeable without any saving graces.
Our main character is called Dani and she is trying her hand at the role of new mother with the eye-rollingly stupid partner she has who is doing the bare minimum to play father, picking and choosing when he feels like being father. This woman now realises the reality that no two motherhoods are the same and she feels like hers is not working like that of her friends. I mean, there are things like individual differences but I would not expect the characters of Ainslie Hogarth's books to be able to think that far.
Dani meets a woman who is in charge of a yoga centre because of course she does. But after encouraging Dani to reach her full potential and become a real woman, she disappears leaving Dani empty inside. The yoga centre is not really a yoga centre though because then it would not really be all about female empowerment clearly written by someone who has not got a clue what they are talking about, would it? As I said before, the characters are wholly unlikeable - each and every one of them.
I have heard that over the course of reading this book, many readers have simply given up with it, stating it is too slow and too much of a chore because of the unlikeable personalities of the characters and the constant fish-wife tone of the main character. So much privilege mixed with the constant incessant complaining makes for the whiney woman archetype that I though died with Ernest Hemingway's worst female characters. I never really liked Ainslie Hogarth's debut all that much and have had many mixed feelings about it - knowing something was lacking. Here is what is lacking: three dimensional characters.
The whole thing felt like the author was babbling and the book has clearly not been edited professionally yet. If it has then I feel sorry for the author having to put something so ridiculous out. The last 50% of the book feels like it should have been shaved down, lower and lower until it didn't sound so blatheringly pathetic all the time. I know you might think I am being harsh but you have not sat through this book and in this case, I would recommend you did not. Her debut novel Motherthing was at least conceptually interesting. This just sounds like some woman with no redeeming factors complaining for 300 pages.
The social commentary overtakes the storyline of the novel to make everything so obvious it should repel anyone who likes nuance away from the book. It is such an in-your-face style that the whole 'show don't tell' rule of creative writing that you were taught at seven years' old goes out of the window. I found it distasteful and in literature, it is difficult to make me find something distasteful.
All in all, I would steer clear of this book. There is no way I could let my readers read something that sounds like it has so much potential and then, when you read it, it goes nowhere and does nothing. Quite possibly being one of the worst books I have read this year, I am actually fairly surprised that I managed to finish it without rolling my eyes so far into my skull I could see my brain.