Top critical review
Fine but not worth the hype
28 August 2018
I don’t understand the hype I’ve read on Instagram about this being “the best book I’ve read in years”. If this is you, you need to read some more. If you want a funny, feisty, contemporary chick lit check out Lucy Vine, she’s much better. Or Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies for more women with different situations trying to do things their way. If you want a LOL on the train and a book that will definitely surpass your experience with The Cows go read Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt. If you want a witty, warm novel told by different characters reread One Day. If you want a recent release for a holiday read, grab Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
The Cows is fine. It’s not terrible. It’s just not as good as other people keep telling me.
It is full of judgement and judgy people. We’re supposed to be on board with Tara, the working single mother who avoids the other school mums “I’ve convinced myself they all judge me for my situation and therefore I make no effort to connect with them.” Well that makes her a bit of a twit in assuming none of them are in the same position. She also aggressively invites her kid to someone else’s party. Weird. I have kids. If they’re not invited to a party so what. To keep costs down they only ever have their closest mates come to our house. It’s not an exclusive thing, it’s a my-house-doesn’t-fit-30-kids-in-it thing.
With the fancy dress element of the party, I didn’t get why Tara would make the effort to make a snowman costume but couldn’t be arsed to google Olaf. She’s so self-obsessed and anxious about all the couples at the party. I go to all kids parties on my own. I don’t take my husband. O’Porter seems to be approaching this from a snobby, narrow experience of life. Many of the parents at our school aren’t married couples. There are single parents, grandparents bringing up their grandkids, foster parents, parents who work mad shifts so have to alternate who’s doing the party duty, parents whose spouse is undergoing cancer treatment so lets them have some quiet time instead of dragging them to a party.
By the end of the party in the book (which really isn’t a big part of the story, it just highlighted the narrow minded content of this novel), Tara is upset because “my little princess is crying her eyes out” yes, because you’ve been a selfish, paranoid twit. The party was about her and her friend not you.
There were some lazy parental generalisations like “but the stress of life and a lack of sleep, as well as coping with three kids, makes it hard to spot the smile” when that particular character has kids who are old enough to give her a lie in and a decent night’s sleep.
I’m going to get really petty now but the use of the word “gotten” in the latter part of the book made me cringe. I know it’s American. Dawn isn’t and the characters are in the UK. The word goes through me.
It was fine, it was readable. The opinions of some of the characters sounded like very thinly veiled diatribes straight from the author. Some of the emails, newspaper articles and blog posts lacked authenticity, they didn’t feel like genuine blogs or news stories written by professional journalists (even if they write for the Daily Fail).
I found it strange that all three protagonists (Tara, Stella and Cam) had a severe lack of good quality friendships. They’re all really lonely whether they’re happy or not with that situation. Maybe it was too complicated to weave in more characters but as a mid 30s woman it struck me as odd.
Published in 2016, it’s rather more reliant on facebook then twitter than it would be now. God help us if there’s an instamum and youtube heavy sequel.
It was fine. Not as funny as I’d hoped from Dawn and not as cool as the cover suggests. Definitely don’t judge this book by its cover.