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?'