thoughts and things

Bahlsen Book Club Review: The School Gates by Nicola May

I am delighted to be a part of the Bahlsen Book Club. This is the first book for the club and I am very excited about it. As well as the book I was sent some yummy Bahlsen biscuits to aid my reading, and they were scrummy – I am obsessed with the Caramel ones!

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So, onto the book.

The School Gates by Nicola May

This is not my usual type of book – I admit I tend to not read what people describe as ‘chick lit’ books but I am also always keen to try new things and so I wasn’t put off by the fact this book is about a group of mums and dads who know each other through the school gates – dropping their children off at primary school mornings and afternoons. I think it is a scenario we all know or have experienced so we can all empathise!

There are the typical characters – the snobby mums, the posh mums, the mum with lots of children, the rich, the poor, the au pairs and the child minders and the gay dad. Yes, this can seem a bit stereotyped but to be honest I could relate to all the characters!

The plot of the book is really a lot of smaller stories intertwined – each mum or dad in the book has their own issues going on behind close doors, and the story follows them all through one school year. I liked the way the book was split into terms as well.

The blurb on the back explains the stories well:

At 3.10pm every weekday, parents gather at Featherstone Primary in Denbury to collect their children.

For a special few, the friendships forged at the school gates will see them through lives filled with drama, secrets and sorrows. When Yummy Mummy Alana reveals the identity of her love-child’s father, she doesn’t expect the consequences to be quite so extreme. Ex Czech au-pair Earth Mummy Dana finds happiness in her secret sideline, but really all she longs for is another child. Slummy Mummy Mo’s wife-beating husband leads her down a path she never thought possible, and Super Mummy Joan has to cope when life deals her a devastating blow. And what of Gay Daddy Gordon? Will he be able to juggle parenthood and cope with his broken heart at the same time?

Four very different mothers. One adorable dad. And the intertwining trials and tribulations that a year at the primary school gates brings

The book was easy to read and I enjoyed the slightly comic and friendly style it was written in. It was easy to get into the book and I was interested in the characters and what would happen to them.

The book is a bit cheesy at times, and a bit predictable but there were definitely parts that I didn’t expect – especially the ending!- and it reminded me of a TV programme – I think it would be good on the TV. The chapters do go from character to character sort of like in ‘scenes’ in a TV programme and I quite liked this style.

Some characters I would have liked to have known more about – such as Robbie (I was intrigued by his flat mate John as well) and the teacher Mr Chambers. I has expected there to be more about the school in it but it is more about the parents lives’ in between the school pick up times.

There are lots of themes within the book and I enjoyed the way it weaves in and out of the characters lives. I liked the way friendships were formed such as with Mo and Joan, Inga and Gordon and Dana and Alana. There were some really funny moments in the book – especially with Inga and Gordon.

My only criticisms (more like questions really!) are that I felt The domestic violence issues initially were quite hard hitting but I felt they were resolved in a quite convenient way. I also couldn’t understand what the ‘devastating blow’ was for Joan as described in the blurb – I couldn’t understand why she did what she did with Charlie or at the end of the book – both seem to go against her character (although I would love to know what happened next!) I also did not really ‘get’ the relationship between Alana and Stephen – after all this time, after a one night stand 6 years ago, why would Alana suddenly fall in love with him?

Apart from these questions, I enjoyed the book and the plots. I really enjoyed Dana’s story and I liked the fact that this wasn’t necessarily a happy ending, it was quite realistic. I liked the way I could empathise and relate to the characters. The book made me laugh and kept my attention throughout. Yes, there was a few convenient resolutions and a few cheesy moments but I liked the escapism the book gave me, and how easy it was to read. It was a great book to read over the Easter holidays.

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