The Cows by Dawn O'Porter

I'm someone that doesn't like to read a book that's been hyped about so much. I normally find that theres an immense amount of disappointment once I've read it and it never really lives up to the expectations. But a fair amount of the time I'm surprised and I love the book just as much as the rest of the world. Before I read The Cows by Dawn O'Porter, I had heard SO many things about it that I was fairly excited to start reading it. This book is the April book for the Mumsnet Book club who I have partnered with to give an honest review of each of their books of the month. 

The Cows is Dawn's first adult novel and focuses on three different women from different walks of life that are all trying to find their own voices in the world. It's about how being a woman is different for each of us, but there is a bond that ties us together regardless of who we are. I had in fact been given an ARC many moons ago that I never ended up reading. For me, it was mainly because I didn't really enjoy her YA novels and didn't know what to expect from her adult novel.

I have to say that I was really surprised and really impressed with Dawn's first adult offering. On the surface it was fun, witty and a fantastic insight into modern life for women. But after thinking about it, it's so much more! An interesting debate on the perceptions of women in society and how women themselves are trying to challenge the stereotype.

The story focuses on three women, Tara, Cam and Stella. Each of them have their own problems going on but are somehow connected and have stories that weave throughout each others. Tara ends up as a viral sensation for all the wrong reasons and her life is thrown into turmoil whilst she is trying to look after her child and be the mother everyone expects her to be. Stella is in a state of grief for not only her mother and sister who have died of cancer, but also her body that is going to be changed forever thanks to her having the BRCA gene. Cam is a fearless single feminist blogger that becomes the face of childless women much to her mother's disappointment.

With a tagline of "Don't follow the herd", the story opens with the definition of what a cow is. Essentially made to breed and produce milk, destined to be in a constant hormonal state and merely a piece of meat. In society, this is an unashamed way of looking at a woman. In the sense that she is there to birth and nurture a child and provide for others instead of standing out from the crowd and being who she wants to be.

I honestly loved the way that Dawn addressed those issues that women face on a day to day basis. Everything from the expectations people have of us, through to friendships and trolling. One thing that did bug me a little bit was how far fetched some of the scenes and scenarios were. For me, it was a bit too much at times and I did have to put the book down on occasions. Not for hating it, but for the second hand embarrassment for the characters themselves. That didn't take away from how much I enjoyed the book though, and I loved the way it was brash and bold in it's own convictions.

I found the character of Stella really uncomfortable to read, and I think that the longer  I read the book the more I didn't like her. Whilst she was in a situation that I would hate to find myself in, she didn't make the situation easier for herself and the mental health stereotype was really stretched. I also disliked the way she attacked others throughout the story. I did feel like she redeemed herself a bit at the end, but not enough for me to feel like I had that much of a connection with her.

One thing that I found the most interesting was the portrayal of Tara as a single mother. Her choice to not tell the father that he was a dad really struck me, but I was mainly admirable of the way she faced the playground mums and bullies. As someone that has struggled with playground politics at times, it was refreshing to read that I wasn't alone and that the judgements she faced as a working mother were ones that I felt too.

I also loved the way that Cam's blogging was told. Like Cam, the people around me still don't fully understand what I do to earn my money and it was refreshing to see someone forging a career out of her blog and making a success of it. I also loved the way they poked fun at parts of blogging, such as the different types of bloggers and the weird things we do just to get a blog post perfect.

The Cows was a refreshing read about modern perceptions of women and how we are trying to challenge them. It's a celebration of strength and a story that really shines a light on how we are all connected to each other even though we may not feel as though we have that much in common. It's a fantastic introduction to modern feminism in an unapologetic way.

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