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11 of 11 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

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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?
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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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Depends on your schooling, 2 Jan. 2010
By 
C. Parker "Patrick" (Northumberland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: May Contain Nuts (Paperback)
State school fans will love it. Private school fans will hate it.

Personally I thoroughly enjoyed it but then, like John, I despise private school fans (pedestal, tower and extractor).

Paddy.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a bit disappointing...., 29 Dec. 2012
This review is from: May Contain Nuts (Paperback)
I have read John O'Farrell books before and thought they were original and witty - even laughed out loud on many occassions, but not during this read. I found this book a bit dull and tedious. It was rather predictable.

Basically the story revolves around a group of competive snobby parents wishing/wanting at any cost the best for their children(like all parents) which results in:- fraud, bullying, lying to name but a few negative aspects of human nature. In fact I found the main character Alice Chaplin rather distasteful and her trying to make good at the end a cop out...I think it would have been better if she remained as bad if not worse than all the other bullying, competitive parents. John O'Farrells ending was lacking momentum and conviction I found it rather hard to believe.

On a positive note it was easy reading and flowed rather well, although I thought it was a bit too long.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 12 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: May Contain Nuts (Kindle Edition)
Properly funny - read it!
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7 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars health warning for obsessed parenthood, 6 April 2006
This review is from: May Contain Nuts (Paperback)
Alice Chaplin frequently sits up in bed all night popping bubble-wrap in her attempts to de-stress herself. By the time Jamie her son was a teenager,'he would end up bunking off school and spend his days lurking on the London underground with other feral street urchins' and Molly who has to get admission into Chelsea College may not succeed in the entrance examination - these are her perennial sources of anxiety. David her husband is perhaps a little less manic but equally obsessed. Towards the end of the novel when Alice has to confront for herself the ugly truth spat out by Ms Osafo, the black woman with whose daughter Ruby, she had become very closely involved, David speeds past all traffic lights driving like a maniac to get to Chelsea first and prepare Ms Reynolds, the head teacher in his own way, to not accept the charge of fraud that the Chaplins know will be foisted on them.
I haven't read any of John O'Farrell's books before and I had no real interest when I picked up this one but after a few pages I was in fits of laughter! A very readable and fast paced style with a satirical sense of humour thickly laced with sarcasm, this is a very funny and provocative book indeed, sharp as a razor. Every chapter is introduced by a piece with an authorial reference - this sets the tone for the following chapter and is hilarious in itself! The characters are exaggerations but I can recognise the absurd behaviour of those many parents who will go to almost ridiculous lengths to protect and promote their children and give them a better start in life.
"may contain nuts" is a fantastic exposition of the high levels of stress that many parents of today put themselves through to ensure that their young ones are at the top of everything - swimming, tennis, ballet, horse-riding, piano, maths, computer applications, debates and drama, essay-writing and singing, dancing and even fencing that Molly begrudgingly did with Bronwyn every Thursday - and to get the highest scores in science, geography, history and every conceivable subject that schools like Chelsea can think of. And yet, this isn't enough. For a young mother also wants her offspring to be far superior to all other children in the class, especially those of other young mothers who join them in social activities, club together, or are a shade richer; the constant one-upmanship that occurs between rival parents. Ffion is Alice's one such friend and Molly must be better than Bronwyn in every way. Yet for Ffion herself there is never any doubt about her daughter being the best - her specially created computer spreadsheet proved it!
Their children are conscious of what they eat at 12 and what they drink! There is this fine moment on a Saturday morning get together when Sarah leaps across the room like a presidential bodyguard and snatching a biscuit from her child's hand, reads solemnly from the side of the packet: ' "may contain nuts". Yes, I thought so'. When someone in the group says 'I didn't know Cameron was allergic to nuts', her response is: 'Well, we don't know whether he is or not, we've never exposed him to them. It's just not worth taking the risk, is it?' The obsession of the young parents borders on the hysterical! On another occasion, Bronwyn refuses sugar ...it goes direct to the hips!
John O'Farrell weaves many social challenges into his story and exposes through Alice all the stereotypes we are familiar with. We hear it again as so often in the past centuries: "If we were white and she was black, you would believe me and not her. If we were white and told you that a black family had cheated, you'd believe the white people, not the black". But Miss Reynolds is dismissive of Ms Osafo and can only give a conspiratorial laugh, when she closes the Osafo-Chaplin proceedings in her chamber with comments on the non-existent similarity rather than the actual drastic differences in handwriting when she compared the scrap of paper on which Molly had written a very private poem to her mother (and yet it was read at assembly!) with the answer scripts which earned her admission into Chelsea College.
The author cuts through yet another gap, that which exists within similar social positions. He does this with penetrating insights into the deeply entrenched habits of snobbery and scorn manifested through a sophisticated bullying on one hand, and a deep-seated fear of power and affluence on the other; Ffion gloats in the former while Alice labours under the latter. Sarah who is forced into a situation where she needs to look for admission into Battersea (from Chelsea where she works) for her daughter Kirsty, somehow neutralises this huge divide. Her husband, William provides the turning point for Alice's reflections on the true character of schools and of the joys of childhood when he suavely shares his thoughts with her.
The maturing of an individual is yet another motif that finds excellent expression in Alice as she first cowers in fear of Ffion and what she might say about just about everything, mainly to brag about Bronwyn and run down everyone else. When such an Alice can bring herself to say under grave provocation, " F, f... off and find something more worthwhile to do, like shaving off that hideous moustache, you big fat walrus", she shocks herself but we know she has at last come of age, she can stand up to Ffion! And to our great delight, the wheel turns full circle when in Battersea Comprehensive Molly rushes to the rescue of her friend, Ruby and stands up to the bullying senior girl and repeats the very same words of her mother to Ffion. More interestingly, when Molly notices Alice keeping watch on her from under the tree, she walks over to whisper, "Mum, Go home. I can manage." Molly has grown up very quickly indeed!
The air is very refreshing - light and cheery - when the Chaplin family gets completely soaked running through the spray from the lawn sprinkler, giggling with sheer delight! From a ferocious satire directed towards the competitive middle class of south London, a satire which although fairly light and frothy, is still dark because it penetrates those corners of our mind we'd rather keep tightly shut and in the dark, we now issue forth into the radiant, open and fun-filled atmosphere where even adults can gambol along and play in innocence with their children. We know this family has truly bonded and will remain strong with values that last and matter, not with the values that come only from having gone to a posh public school and scored the highest mark along with an array of other achievements.
Despite all the silly and amusing scenarios there is a strong moral running throughout the story. may contain nuts should serve as a great health warning to the many young parents of today's competitive world that goes for achievement targets rather than a life of childhood pleasures, fun and laughter. If you should wonder, 'is this really the case today?' then look no further than the front page of one of India's leading newspapers of 20 March 2006 which had on its front page splashed in bold bright colours a picture showing "members of two organisations holding a demonstration appealing to parents to refrain from giving extra pressure to their children during examinations. The organisations were concerned over the high rate of suicide among children who are unable to keep pace with high competition."
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 20 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: May Contain Nuts (Kindle Edition)
Hilarious book!
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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny in spots but..., 21 Feb. 2006
By 
D. C. Carrad "augustabookman" (Augusta, GA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: May Contain Nuts (Paperback)
Five stars for wit, prose style and some interesting moments; 0 stars for plot and "message". The central problem of this book is that it confuses politics and aesthetic judgements with morality, and when it does so it becomes quite leaden. Whilst this is satire and the author is thus allowed to exaggerate and paint with a broad brush, Battersea Comprehensive and the estates are just too good to be true -- they don't have to be perfect, as they are portrayed, to make the author's point. He does, however, confuse his prejudices and notions of what is Good for Society with morality ("if you don't agree with me, you are a fascist") which is annoying and tedious. Well worth buying and enjoyable reading, but cum grano salis.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nowhere near as good as his other books, 5 May 2009
This review is from: May Contain Nuts (Paperback)
Read This If Your Life before you read this one - it's full of characters that you dislike straight away!
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars May contain nuts, 22 Dec. 2013
This review is from: May Contain Nuts (Paperback)
I was not happy with the state of the Book as it was very old. Pages were brown at the edges. Although it was meant to be new.
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5 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Naïve, and a poor advert for Mr. O'Farrell's friends..., 8 July 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: May Contain Nuts (Hardcover)
It is not surprising that John O'Farrell feels the need to apologise to some of his friends at the end of this poorly put-together 21st c. morality play. Several times I did laugh out loud at some of the amusing phrases he uses, or situations he concocts, but the story itself is wafer-thin, appallingly naïve and self-satisfied, and typically metropolitan. If the characters in this represent the author's social circle, as he seems to imply, I'd get some new friends rather than satirising them, and if he thinks this kind of much is going to save the comprehensive school system, he'd be better advised going back into local politics... Avoid like the plauge!
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An amusing and quick light read, 9 Sept. 2005
This review is from: May Contain Nuts (Hardcover)
Don't try and make too much of this tale of the privileged wealthy worrying about their children's schooling. I think it's just John O'Farrell having lots of fun at the expense of the people he's writing about, who do exist. There are a few thought-provoking points made, but it's such a "rich" subject to mine, isn't it? He mentions his own children's names at the very end - but they can't be their real ones, can they? Freddie and Lily? Sounds too posh to me.
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May Contain Nuts
May Contain Nuts by John O'Farrell (Paperback - 1 Mar. 2006)
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