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72 Reviews
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Witty and (often) wise
A very funny read. Especially for anyone who has been around over-anxious/over-competitive middle class parents in the UK. Some great scenes (i.e. teaching young kids to play contract bridge) and dialogue.
The ending lacks subtlety (tho' has a good message). But perhaps O'Farrell deliberately wrote a book that does not demand too heavy attention levels, so that tired...
Published on 11 Sept. 2005

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny and optimistic, but ultimately far-fetched?
I have read a few of John O'Farrell's other works and had a rough idea what to expect, some social comment mixed with a good deal of clever humour and satire. And I did get this. The novel made me have a really good laugh from time to time, at the main character and first person narrator's (Alice Chaplin's) thoughts and behaviours in her attempts to give her children...
Published on 16 April 2008 by L. H. Healy


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Witty and (often) wise, 11 Sept. 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: May Contain Nuts (Hardcover)
A very funny read. Especially for anyone who has been around over-anxious/over-competitive middle class parents in the UK. Some great scenes (i.e. teaching young kids to play contract bridge) and dialogue.
The ending lacks subtlety (tho' has a good message). But perhaps O'Farrell deliberately wrote a book that does not demand too heavy attention levels, so that tired and distracted parents can read it without too much trouble.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Laugh out loud funny, 22 Jun. 2007
By 
Helenbookworm (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: May Contain Nuts (Hardcover)
This my first time reading a John O Farrell book and I was not sure what to expect. The book is written from the point of view of Alice an over anxious middle class mother desperately wanting the best for her children and loosing site to the fact that if she does everything for them they won't learn to do things themselves. After reading the first couple of pages (involving the `heroine' causing a car crash after ambushing an unsuspecting speeding driving with a mannequin dressed as Tony Blair in school uniform!) I was worried that the book was going to be ridiculous rather than satirical.

However I was wrong, though some of the premises in the book are a little off the wall (a mother sitting an exam for her daughter for one) he keeps the right side of satire and has written an extremely entertaining book. The over pushy parents timetabling every second of their children's life were priceless and sadly recognizable. I laughed out loud on several occasions especially at the children's book club.

The only problem that I had with the book was though I applaud the message that it is important that a school concentrates on pupils as people and not just their exam results I do think the last few chapters of the book were just a little over idealized. Generally a really good read.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This could be any of us...., 16 Feb. 2006
By 
K. MCPOLIN "HIFI Fan" (Buckinghamshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: May Contain Nuts (Paperback)
I picked this book up with no real enthusiasm, but after ten pages I was in fits of laughter. It is a very funny book indeed, and sharp as a razor. The characters are exaggerations but if you have a children of school age, or even better, if you know parents who do, you will immdediately recognise the absurd behaviour of people obsessed with protecting and promoting their little darlings. A wonderful, hysterical, bitter sweet satire of our time!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars May Contain Nuts, 5 Nov. 2014
By 
Keen Reader "lhendry4" (Auckland, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: May Contain Nuts (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this rather witty novel. The main character Alice is a bit of a ‘helicopter’ parent; always worrying about her children, never letting them walk down the street, or experience anything like the ‘real’ world; obsessing about their development, which school they will go to and more of the like. Alice and David’s friends are all fairly similar, and the competition heats up between them when it’s time for their 11 year olds to move to secondary school – how will they cope with the entrance exam of the only school that they really absolutely must go to!?

I can readily believe that there are parents out there like this, which makes the comedic aspect of this book quite brutally hard-hitting. The obvious irony of some of the things that Alice’s narrative tells the reader clearly sail well over her head – taking her children to school in the 4x4 and then complaining about other mothers who do the same, for example.

An entertaining read, this book loses one star for me because of the slightly heavy-handed way in which the moral dilemma faced by Alice is handled, but for an undemanding, witty and rather entertainingly engaging read, this was very enjoyable. I shall definitely look out for more works by the author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny and optimistic, but ultimately far-fetched?, 16 April 2008
By 
L. H. Healy "Books are life, beauty and truth." (Cambridgeshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: May Contain Nuts (Paperback)
I have read a few of John O'Farrell's other works and had a rough idea what to expect, some social comment mixed with a good deal of clever humour and satire. And I did get this. The novel made me have a really good laugh from time to time, at the main character and first person narrator's (Alice Chaplin's) thoughts and behaviours in her attempts to give her children everything in life, and more. O'Farrell cleverly pokes fun at over-protective parents doing everything for their children and wrapping them in cotton wool, until these children aren't really experiencing the 'real world' as such. A humorous situation plays out, involving entrance exams for private secondary schools. The ultimate message is that a secondary school can be just as worthwhile if not more so than a private fee-paying school in producing a well-rounded, happy child, with other underlying messages to go with it.

A good quick entertaining and humorous read, with well-intentioned messages, even if they are really just a little bit on the idealistic side.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alternate, 5 Sept. 2008
By 
N. Krisztina "krisz" (Hungary) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: May Contain Nuts (Paperback)
I found this novel highly unreal - therefore astonishing. It was very interesting to read these reviews. Generally I have to say I disagree with most of the other viewers, as I did not find it funny, I found it so unbelieveable I rather chuckled at it. It looks like it was a fiction but it is rather like a story resembling to Oz. And how could anyone suppose to get real-life characters out of an eerie tale? I don't deem the storyline to be as interesting as the world created by this novel. I don't think it's about school selection, as some people said, either. Just enter the creation of JOF and let it take you to a different reality. That's how I felt. Thanks, John.
Ps. And do not think school selection is not an issue in Hungary. I have to enroll my baby for his/her starting nursery right when he/she is born (so I know for sure his/her name). Otherwise when he/she becomes 2 years old there will be no empty place in the nursery. And this is just the beginning!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beware of over anxious Parenting!, 15 April 2008
This review is from: May Contain Nuts (Paperback)
The time when our children are totally dependent on us is actually such a short phase of our lives.
At the time you think they will need you for ever, requiring us to make every decision in their young lives. Beware of overanxious parenting as it hinders your enjoyment, as seen in this satirical novel, which works so well because it is based on home truths!

Every second of the children's lives is run to a strict timetable with constant activities. Sadly this reflects today's society with many parents over obsessive behaviour with regards to their children's future. Unfortunately this method of parenting leads to stressed children.

Hilarious look at middle class pretension, however will reading this make those pushy parents think again? Sadly I doubt they will even read it!

May Contain Nuts is a very readable novel that will amuse all those interested in middle class snobbery and paranoid parents.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Class Act, 25 Sept. 2005
By 
Graeme Wright "book worm" (salford) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: May Contain Nuts (Hardcover)
With the sort of pinpoint accuracy essential for somebody who has written speeches for politicians and scripts for Spitting Image puppets (there IS a difference) John O'Farrell directs his ferocious satire towards the competitive middle class of South London. This is the story of Alice, the over protective, somewhat paranoid mother of Molly who is very bright but doesn't do very well in exams. Accordingly Alice decides to stand in for Molly at the entrance exam for an elite London school. Sounds far fetched? Of course it is - plot usually plays second fiddle to O'Farrell's brilliant characters and surreal dilemmas - but the book is so playfully written and sharply observed that no criticism can be intended. From his description of the sort of parents who draw up league tables of their offsprings' achievements to the virtual brainwashing of same offspring into recognizing Peter and the Wolf by rote, O'Farrell is merciless in where he sticks the boot and how hard.
The real joy with this book is how comfortably O'Farrell writes in the first person feminine with an accuracy that recalls Nick Hornby in How To Be Good.
This is light reading at its most enjoyable. All power to Mr O'Farrell's imagination!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars this is my life...., 28 April 2006
By 
A. Craig "Amanda Craig" (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: May Contain Nuts (Paperback)
This book, picked up at Waitrose, has cheered me up no end during a dire week of negotiating through the social and educational minefield that is London education. I recognised it all - the madly competitive mums whose default setting is anxiety, the stressed-out kids, the insane plots to try and get another exam point higher, the fear, the disgusting 4x4 cars, and the pressure that has the narrator dress up to take her daughter's 11+ entrance examination for the exclusive Chelsea College. Every urban culture in the world now has its "helicopter mothers", terrified of letting their children slip into the abyss of underachievement. O'Farrell had me laughing until I cried. His solution, though, is a bit less plausible - isn't this the same person who, with a bunch of other middle-class South London parents, got their very own state school set up last year, with, presumably, problem families from sink estates excluded?
PS Various enraged readers have informed me that problem families are, on the contrary, not excluded. If that's so, I hope the Rubys as well as the Mollys get to read this book and tell us what it's like
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must for parents of 10 year olds, 22 April 2006
This review is from: May Contain Nuts (Paperback)
John O'Farrell's book brilliantly captures the madness that envelopes parents of 10 year olds in their search for a secondary school. This is a wonderful, light frothy hugely enjoyable read, with which parents will identify. (Along with of course his other book on children A Best a Man can Get, which is a truly laugh out loud book). As J O'F so obviously has children who are slightly older than my own, I am looking forward to his next book on teenage monsters which I feel convinced he must be writing even as I type.
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May Contain Nuts
May Contain Nuts by John O'Farrell (Paperback - 1 Mar. 2006)
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