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A Rosie Bookshelf: Mutton by India Knight

I've never had a theme with my blog, it's always just been about things I love, or things I've been doing - a dash of photography, a smidgen of adventures, a good dose of eating out, some fashion, the odd beauty product and even a little fitness and running sneaking in here and there.  One of my great pleasures in life that I perhaps haven't proportionally discussed on here is reading. Considering the sheer volume of brown Amazon parcels that turn up at work for me, my habit of trawling through charity shops for old paperbacks and the amount of time I spend curled up in bed with a good book, I rarely discuss my reads here.  I don't really know why that is, except for the fact that I'm conscious that not everyone likes reading - but then it occured to me that not everyone likes running, or skincare reviews, or outfit posts and so on, but the beauty of blogging (and blog reading) is that you can just skip past the things you're not interested in.

So welcome, bookworms, to my first post about books, a review of India Knight's newest novel, Mutton. This book was kindly sent to me for review by Penguin Books.  I must admit to being particularly excited when an email from Penguin Books popped into my inbox, and I'd like to thank them for giving me the impetus to start talking about reading on my blog.

For those of you who don't know, India Knight is a beauty and fashion columnist for the Sunday Times, as well as having written several fiction and non-fiction books.  This, her latest, is described as a "funny exploration of ageing" - it focusses on 46-year-old Clara who finds herself exploring her opinions on what it is to be in your 40s - family, age and appearance - when an old school-friend moves in with her.  (An old school-friend who is nearing 50 but looks in her 30s and survives mainly on kale and cosmetic surgery).


I must admit that when I pulled this book out of its envelope and had a quick look at the synopsis, that I was worried that it would be a bit... 'chick-lit-y'.  I must admit to being a little bit of a reading snob and steering clear of anything that looks too trashy or involves female protagonists searching for love or navigating the world of dating (and so on).  Refreshingly, this book wasn't like that - instead it was an honest exploration of what it means to be a female in her 40s; what happens when the builders stop wolf-whistling you, the laughter-lines start to form and you start to question what you can wear - veering away from mumsy and yet not wanting to be 'mutton'.

Despite my not being quite into even my 30s yet, there were still things I could relate to in this book.  I was definitely nodding along at the references to wanting to stay in instead of going out to trendy wine bars, and I found it quite refreshing that the novel touches on the concept of comparison amongst women and how hard it is to not feel envious of a skinnier friend who seems immune to the ageing process.  It sounds really superficial in its themes and I suppose to an extent, it is, but I enjoyed the candid approach to discussions about dieting ("how odd it should be that you have to eat like hungry poor people in order to look expensive"), relationships, fashion family, female friendships, sex and feminism (and what they all mean to women in their 'mid-life).

These 'discussions' hang on the plot line of an old friend of the main character moving back in with her, an old friend who is obsessed with her appearance and has done everything she can to avoid looking (and feeling) her age. My only criticism of the book would be that I thoroughly enjoyed the exploration of these issues but that they sometimes felt crowbared into the plot.  There are some quite lengthy sections with little development, and then others where they are more focussed on the progression of the story, and at times it felt a little disjointed. (The plot has some really funny, enjoyable moments too, it's just that they didn't always marry up).

Overall, it was an enjoyable, light-hearted read, and an intelligent, thought-provoking insight into forty-something womanhood.  I've given it 3 stars on my GoodReads profile.

You can find out more about Mutton on the Penguin Books page.


My 'to read' pile is rather growing at the moment and I actually bought two more books today - Alice and Jenny have started a blogger's book club and I bought their first choice, 'The President's Hat', as well as 'The Antelope Wife', which has been on my wishlist for a little while.  If you enjoyed this post I'll be posting more reviews in future, and you can check out what else I've been reading on GoodReads.

On a final note, if you love reading, I highly recommend Alex's series 'A Blogging Good Read', where she, and two other bloggers choose books to review and give their opinions on them.  It's always a great post to read if you're looking for inspiration for new reads, and Alex posts the books they'll be reading next month so you can read along! (That was a lot of mentions of the word 'read' in one paragraph!)

Are you a book lover? Do you have any recommendations for books to add to the 'to read pile?'

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18 comments

  1. I used to be such a bookworm as a teenager yet I've kind of all but given up reading regularly the last...decade. I too have a 'to read' pile that I've been slowly eating my way through, one page at a time x

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  2. I love that you cover such a wide range of topics on your blog, I really admire that. I go into phases where I love reading and I literally work my way through a crazy amount of books in such a short space of time, and then I go on a massive hiatus and then repeat. Good luck with your to read pile, mines slowly growing too! x

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  3. Lovely post! I couldn't imagine my life without books. It's such a steadfast part of my regime. That said, I studied English (with theology) at uni and found that I burnt myself out with the demands of the course (reading up to 3 novels a week as well as all the critical stuff). For a long time after I graduated I struggled to love literature again, and it's only in the past few years that I've rediscovered my passion for reading. I've read some corkers recently, and can thoroughly recommend The Shipping News (the film was crap but the book exquisite - you'd love the nautical theme!), When God Was a Rabbit and Molly Fox's Birthday. I'd forgotten about my Goodreads account so will definitely be going back to that xx

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    1. That is so funny what you said about The Shipping News, it was one of the options for our 'real life' book club but my Mum said she found it really boring so I suggested not choosing it! Might have to pick it up anyway even if it doesn't get picked. I wasn't sure about When God Was A Rabbit, I read it a while ago and just thought it was 'okay' - definitely going to try the other one you recommended though! xo
      PS - Bet your Uni course was fascinating, I really fancied doing English but went for Media instead!

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  4. I used to read much more than I do now, but I'm trying to get back into reading as much as I can. Just need something to kickstart it! x

    http://suchahullabaloo.blogspot.com

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  5. This is a great post and I really hope to read more. This isn't a book I would usually go for. Like you I can be a bit of a book snob (it happens when you have a mum who is a librarian) and I usually avoid chick lit but your review definitely makes it sound more appealing

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    1. It definitely isn't my usual type of book either - if you're looking for a very light read I'd definitely recommend it but if you're a steadfast 'literary fiction' reader you might not like it, it's good but it's not going to change your life :) xo

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  6. Love your review! Maybe I will read the book!
    -Your newest follower on GFC

    Letters from The Vintage Club

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  7. Ah I'm a bit of a book snob too I have to admit! This book sounds a bit close for comfort to me at the moment though - going off to work with teenagers makes you very aware that you're not one yourself anymore!

    I admire you for reading as much as you do - like Sophie, I hardly ever read anymore and I know why - my bloody iphone! I sit and trawl through people's boring facebook status updates in bed instead of reading something proper. You've inspired me to get off the internet now and go to bed with my book though :D x

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    1. I know what you mean Lucy, even though it was about being in your 40s there was lots of bits I found myself nodding along too but I think I am a bit old before my time anyway!

      That was exactly the reason I started reading again, I wasted so much time doing the Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, back to Twitter cycle on my phone in bed and I wanted to use that time a bit more wisely! I still need to get better at it, I waste so much time on Twitter when I could be reading a good book! xo

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  8. I am such a bookworm and hate that I don't get much time to read these days. I only just got round to reading the 100 year man who climbed out his window...etc

    it was brilliant! x

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  9. Definitely relate to being a book snob! Though really only in the last year or so. I used to rely heavily on YA fiction for my next read, but recently I've found myself getting bored of the same story lines being repeated over and over again, and I've ended up moving into the 'adult' fiction territory (staying well clear of the 50 Shades type books though!).

    I'd really recommend Zadie Smith as an author. I read one of her works earlier this year - NW - and thoroughly enjoyed it! It's quite a challenging read, as she doesn't stick to a basic linear narrative and really works with her characters, but I found it really enjoyable!

    Really looking forward to more posts like this one - here's to the bookworm bloggers out there :) x

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  10. I am such a booksnob. I generally steer clear of chick-lit. Although lately I've given a couple a go, didn't necessarily enjoy them so I'm sure I steer clear for a reason.

    So glad you're joining in with the book club! It's all a little experimental this first book but it should go well, we've got a lot of people interested.

    Jenny | sunny sweet pea xx

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  11. Yay for book reviews, this is definitely something that you should carry on doing! My favourite book recently has been the hundred year old man who climbed out of the window. I wouldn't have picked it up for myself, but got given it as a gift. It managed to be charming, hilarious, quirky and unputdownable all at the same time. You should definitely add it to your "to read" list.

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    1. Funnily enough I actually have it on my Kindle, I started it but was reading so many books at the time I decided to wait until I had a bit more time, so it is on my to read list! :) Need to crack on with it actually! xo

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  12. Cool post !

    Love, unicorns and glitter on you. <3

    Florian,
    http://www.like-enchanted.com

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  13. This sounds like a must read!
    I love this on youe blog, keep the suggestions coming
    xx
    http://nestylesmart.blogspot.com/

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  14. This is a great book review! I read a lot, too, but for some reason I'm a bit nervous about posting a book review. It's been years since I analysed books at school...

    I quite like India Knight as a person, so I'll have to check out 'Mutton'. I've never read any of her books before. Thanks xx

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Thank you in advance for your lovely comments, they mean the world to me! If you have a question or want to get in touch, tweet me at @rosieoutlook.