I should probably start by confessing I haven’t read fiction in a while. You’re more likely to find me reading up on history or comedy, or the history of comedy than fiction. So when I got broadcaster and novelist Dawn O’Porter’s book The Cows to review I didn’t expect to really get on with it. I didn’t expect to will my train journey’s slow progress to go slower, to cancel evening plans and, in the morning, pour boiling hot water from the kettle onto my foot all in order to keep reading this damn book.
Whatever you’re expecting from Dawn O’ Porter’s The Cows you won’t expect the compelling plot twists in this one. The Cows centres around three women, Tara, Cam and Stella, all with their own stories to tell about womanhood, motherhood and sisterhood. It opens with a definition of a cow, how the heifer only earns the cow title once she’s given birth and how cows (this is my favourite cow fact, my favourite animal fact even) bear grudges. I’ve never seen an author the device of an animal definition to set the tone of a book before but this one works very well.
Slipping in and out of first person depending on which character Dawn is focusing on makes it simple to get into the flow of each story, before they inevitably converge. What’s great about this book is that it doesn’t pretend to tell any general truth about All Women, there’s no winking ‘am I right, ladies?’ in the narrative. These aren’t quirky, easily likeable pixie dream girls, very flaw of these fully formed characters is on show.
This book is very frank in its language and the plot, or plots, are not light. Instead Dawn finds a dark humour in the one truth for all women; we aren’t allowed to switch off. There are some great lines in there – probably my favourite being “…since I opened the can of wombs” and a certain key incident in the book will have you clenching your buttocks in embarrassment with no clue where the author is going to go from there. Seriously, excruciating isn’t the word.
What can I say? It’s a bloody page turner and Dawn O’ Porter certainly doesn’t follow the herd.
The Cows by Dawn O’ Porter is published by Harper Collins, available to by from 6th April 2017