Welcome to Mummy’s world…
It is Mummy’s 39th birthday. She is staring down the barrel of a future full of people asking if she wants to come to their advanced yoga classes, and polite book clubs where everyone claims to be ‘tiddly’ after a glass of Pinot Grigio and says things like ‘Oooh gosh, are you having another glass?’
But Mummy does not want to go quietly into that good night of women with sensible haircuts who ‘live for their children’ and stand in the playground trying to trump each other with their offspring’s extracurricular activities and ‘achievements’, and boasting about their latest holidays. Instead, she clutches a large glass of wine, muttering ‘FML’ over and over again. Until she remembers the gem of an idea she’s had…
I don’t know if anyone else does this, but if I’m not sure whether I’ll like a book – I wait list it. By which I mean, I pre-order the paperback (rather than the hardback version, which comes out first) and there’s a lag time. Paperbacks are cheaper anyway, so if it’s pants I haven’t wasted so much money, and in the meantime I get to see all the reviews and decide whether I actually want to read it. Well, Why Mummy Drinks was one of those I wait listed. And now I wish I hadn’t because I absolutely loved it. For starters, it’s funny. Like, properly funny. Laugh-out-loud-on-the-bus funny. I couldn’t put it down.
I heard about Why Mummy Drinks through following the author’s dog on Instagram. Does anyone else remember 20-years ago when saying you were “following people” was creepy? Never mind. I digress. She has this adorable dog called Judgy, and her Instagram is very entertaining. But I liked her, and her dog, so much that I felt like there was almost too much pressure to like the book as well. So, I waitlisted it. It arrived. I ummed and ahhed, and stuck it on my TBR until I was “in the mood”. Seriously, does anyone else do this? Kind of mad at myself right now…
She has never forgiven me for the time I made her come to one of these parties with me, only for us to discover to our horror that the ‘designer’ mummy hosting the party has, for reasons known only to herself, decided to create an entire range of jewellery based on her own vagina, to celebrate its fecundity.
Why Mummy Drinks reminds me of a grown up Bridget Jones or The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic (if I didn’t want to slap the character from Shopaholic and tell her to strap on a pair). Only, it’s funnier than both of them. Put together. The humour has that peculiarly British quality, shocking in its realism, wryly sarcastic, with a touch of the “comedy of errors”.
‘Ellen,’ Sam looked at me with his eyebrows raised. ‘What on earth did you say or do to make Mark’s sister think you were a massive homophone?’
‘Weeeeeell,’ I mumbled. ‘I was at a party, and it was quite noisy and I’d had a couple of glasses of wine and I didn’t really know Alison that well, and we were having that polite conversation where you ask inane questions about each other, and I asked if she had brothers and sisters and she said she had one brother and I asked if he was married, and I THOUGHT she said, “No, he’s dead” because it was very noisy! And she was very matter-of-fact about it, but I thought I should be sympathetic, and so I did the whole, “Oh, I’m so sorry about that!” and she just sort of looked at me, and so I said, “Was it sudden?” and she said no, she’d always sort of known, so I assumed he had had some sort of long-term illness. So then I said, “Oh well, that doesn’t make it any easier though, does it?” and she just looked at me again. And then, because I thought maybe I wasn’t being sympathetic enough, I said, “And how did your parents cope, because I suppose you never really get over something like that happening to your child, do you?” Then she got very huffy with me and said she was surprised at me, and she had thought I was more broadminded than that, and the way I was carrying on anyone would think her brother was dead, not gay!
You might categorise this book as “chick lit”. Which everyone knows is actually code for “brain candyfloss”. Tastes nice, very sweet, ever so fluffy and fun, but has no real nutrition. And, at first glance, this book is exactly the kind of relaxing fluff that I enjoy best after a very long day. It’s got that comforting kind of feel to it, because there’s little real tension, nothing terribly traumatic happens, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It does deal primarily with some rather “silly” women’s topics. Yet, I was still on the edge of my seat throughout.
And I think to dismiss it as “just chick lit” or “fun” would be to miss some of the edgier and subtler points that Gill Simms raises. The social isolation and loss of self experienced by young mothers, but never talked about; what a real marriage looks like; the more unpleasant realities of raising children, which we are also not supposed to talk about. There is more to this book than meets the eye, and I think that’s why it’s so successful. It feels real. Gill Simms says all the things we wish we could, maybe we should, say – but don’t. And there’s something about that which is very, very brave.
In all honesty, this is definitely a book written by a woman, for women. As a man, you may get the humour, but you probably won’t find a lot else to relate to. If you liked Bridget Jones or, like me, occasionally unwind with some Cathy Bramley, Katie Fforde or Hester Browne, you will love this.
I genuinely adored Why Mummy Drinks. The proof being, I’ve pre-ordered Why Mummy Swears in hardback; no more waitlist for this author! And I can’t wait for it to arrive.
Why Mummy Swears comes out 12th July 2018