By Vita Forest
“It’s about a group of North Shore Mums,” said a friend from one of my old mothers’ groups, “We should have written our own version!”
“It’s about a school,” said a young colleague, “The parents are really crazy.”
“It’s about a single girl who finds love!” giggled a friend who until recently had been single (until she had found love).
One of the book clubs I belong to had read it but I had missed that meeting and the book. It seemed to have a got a big thumbs up though. I was really intrigued how everyone kept describing it differently. How it was about different things to different people.
I asked Fleur if she’d read it on one of our long phone calls where books often came up. She had not. A few weeks later however, she had.
“Oh my god!” she enthused. “You have to read it!”
And so eventually I did. On a short trip to Fleur’s house in Canberra. She pressed it into my hands and basically watched me read it. I laughed. A lot.
“Which part? Which part?” she kept asking and I kept telling.
But then I stopped laughing so much.
Celeste. It was Celeste.
Celeste, who had it all, perfect looks, perfect husband, beautiful house, beautiful children, overseas holidays. More money than she knew what to do with.
And a shameful secret.
For me, this book was about a woman deciding whether to leave a destructive relationship.
Celeste, who kept thinking about leaving, then changing her mind, planning to leave, then staying. The excuses, the justifications, the damning self-talk. The shame. She could not trust her own instincts, her own thoughts, her own eyes. The toxic relationship had become normal.
I talked to another friend about it who was in the middle of an awful divorce.
“There’s no way I could talk about that book at a book club,” she admitted. “No way I could listen to the flippant conversation about it.”
I’m kind of glad I missed that meeting too.
I just reread it (probably due to the hoop-la about the TV series – I haven’t seen it yet but the word is that it’s very good).
There’s a lot of humour in this story about a group of women encountering each other as their children start school. The competitive Mums, the bitchiness, the small events that get blown out of all proportion and become major dramas. All the “types” seem to be covered – the New Age Mum, the career Mum, the ambitious Mum, the helicopter parent, the single Mum.
But all the characters have secrets, hidden dimensions behind their clichéd facades. I liked that too, because for all the snide remarks and petty back-stabbing, the women come together to protect and stand up for each other.
There’s a lot of truth in that too.