I am a big geek when it comes to British authors writing about contemporary British women. I was surprised and charmed by this novel, which centered around a group of women who all had children attending St. Ambrose school in a town outside of London. The "queen bee" of the group was Beatrice. She somehow managed to always get everyone else to do all the work, while she took credit for everything. And somehow, the women in the group thought she was just fantastic. Rachel is a children's book illustrator going through a divorce; she was one of Beatrice's favorites, but finds herself slowly being pushed out of the group. Heather is a mother of one who desperately wishes she was a mother of more children and will do anything to fit in the group. Georgie (my favorite) left a career in the city to marry a farmer and raise a large family and is content to fly under the radar. She pretty much does as she pleases and it quite aware of the manipulations of the group. Georgie is the most down to earth of the ladies and quite a hoot. Melissa is the new parent, a mysteriously put together, makes everything okay kind of woman. She is the calm in the middle of every potential disaster.
The novel follows this group of women over the school year as they work to raise money for the school through car boot sales, lunches, and even a crazy ball that is quite the funny scene. As the year passes, there are ups and downs, and Beatrice keeps pulling the strings to keep her place as queen bee. But can she be knocked off her perch?
As I said earlier, I really enjoyed this novel. I love British snarky humor, and there is plenty here. I actually smirked and laughed out loud quite a bit. Yes, there is some slang that you may puzzle at (what exactly is a lesbian tea? Chamomile), but that is what makes it a fun read. I envisioned a Jennifer Saunders series similar to Clatterford--oh, I so wish that was a reality! But there is a serious side to this novel: be true to yourself, don't try to fit into a mold that isn't you; your kids are watching how you treat other people; there is nothing better than good friends. Life is too short to put up with manipulative people.
Is this chick lit? It's up to you to decide. If it is, it's part of the evolution of the genre. Doesn't matter to me, I thought it was a good read.
Rating: 4/6 for an entertaining look at the power struggle of a group of women in a small town in England, where appearances are everything, volunteering for school functions is a sign of good parenting, and friendships undergo struggles. I had many a good laugh reading this novel.
Available in paperback and e-book.