I’ve enjoyed O’Farrell’s previous novels and appearances on various TV shows (haven’t read any of his non-fiction), and so thought this might be a fun read. And indeed it was.
The book is told from the perspective of Alice, a rather harassed suburban mother who’s so concerned to make sure her daughter gets into an ultra-competitive school that she and her husband decide to take the entrance exam for her. Okay, so maybe that’s a bit of a dodgy plot premise, but really it’s all just a hook for some very astute satire of modern parenting – the general social background and the specifics, such as the unspoken competition between parents.
O’Farrell’s writing style is very straightforward and likeable, and the book zips along well. I’m no judge of these things really, but I think he does a pretty good job of writing from a female point of view without any patronising or obvious stuff slipping in. Granted, there are little moments where an idea is expanded upon in the way a stand- up comedian might extrapolate, but as these are frequently funny, this is forgivable.
O’Farrell also does a pretty decent job of making Alice an essentially sympathetic character, which is no mean feat as she’s often acting in a frankly unhinged or shameless fashion. In all honesty, as more of my friends have kids and I see them justifying their own neurotic behaviour by pretending it’s actually out of concern for their children, I can see how the Alice character rings true (if that observation seems unkind, just ignore it – I’m just jealous, obviously, my biological clock’s ticking and all that).
The book’s currently out in hardback (once again, I say hurrah for my local library), but I’d imagine that it’ll be out in paperback in a few months. Certainly worth a look if you want to read some light modern fiction, but want more of a satirical edge to it.