I haven’t done a proper book review on here before I don’t think. I’ve shared books I love over on my YouTube channel, but, surprisingly, as a ginormous bookworm, I have never sat down and waxed lyrical about a book before.
Books, for me, seem a little like a prospective partner. Most of us have a ‘type’. A list with things to check off it. And, to quote the great daters of our time – the cast of Love Island – I feel like some books are often “100% my type, on paper.”
That said, I’ll often try to read any book recommended to me. Because I remember the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” being drilled into me as a child. And I felt bad for the books with the bad covers, so I always gave them a go. So much so, that I was reading books from the class above me by the time I was in year two. And that stuck with me. After school, I’d go to library and get a huge stack of books out. I’d put them in a carrier bag that would start to leave a welt in the crook of my arm where I carried it, just from the sheer weight of it. And I’d sometimes read one on the walk home. And yes, I did walk into a lamp post. On several occasions. When I was at university, I had a job as a librarian at the university library. I knew the Dewey Decimal System like a boss, and I used to listen to music while I worked. In secret though – headphones and long hair work wonders – we weren’t actually allowed. But music and books. That’s me alright. Add wine and you’ve got a happy Charlotte on your hands.
I was recently asked if I’d like to review Louise Pentland’s Wilde Like Me. And considering it was on my Amazon Book Wish List, I said yes. I have followed Louise for a ridiculously long time. Back when her hair was darker, and she did pregnancy updates, and was rather partial to a lot of glitter. I remember watching her pregnancy updates with a growing baby Bill in my tummy and thinking she was the cat’s pyjamas because she was normal, relatable, and had the same sort of reaction that I did to teeny, tiny baby clothes.
Life went on. I still watched. But less so because – new baby. And, truthfully, not long after my son was born, I found my relationship deteriorating. Fast-forward to when he was 18 months-old and I found myself a single mother, on Boxing Day of all days. Torn between crying and laughing hysterically because I felt like I was George Micheal (rest his soul) and it really was Last Christmas.
I ate a lot of Christmas chocolate, and leftover cheese, and drank a lot of Baileys during that time. I told myself that, come January I would emerge like a confident, social butterfly. I wouldn’t need a man. I’d be fine. Never mind affording the mortgage on my own and all of that.
And so I did. Or at least, I gave every impression of doing so. But eventually, quite quickly actually, The Emptiness hit. Just like it did for Robin Wilde.
And that’s the reason why I had this book on my list. I may be a coupled-up mother…well, if you want me on paper, I’m the sort of mother I never expected to be actually – unmarried, with two children to two different men. I never thought I’d experience single motherhood, meet a man, fall in love, have another child.
Back on Boxing Day, 2013, I was quite certain I’d be a spinster 4 lyf, calling my son and begging him to come round for a cup of tea. Or adopting yet another cat from the shelter in the next town (I’m on my third already – it was likely).
So when I read the blurb – I do love a good blurb – I was excited. It felt a bit like someone had written a book for me. And other women whose happy ever after turns into an “oh God what is this nightmare?” I don’t think many of us invest time, love and a few extra pounds (weight and money) in a relationship to emerge, alone, podgy, lonely and with a child.
That’s not to say that single motherhood wasn’t a positive experience. I thrived and impressed myself. The things that he did, I learned to do. Someone with the kindest heart bought me a special contraption that opens jars, after I wrote a pretty heartbreaking post about worrying what I’d do if I couldn’t open a jar of jam for my son, because I wasn’t strong enough. How is that for an analogy? It turns out that, with a little help from something that looks remarkably like a torture device, we are all strong enough to open jars of jam. And more.
But it was full of The Emptiness for me. Like Robin, I’d sit at home and watch time pass me by. The nights were the worst. I’d tuck Bill up in bed and I’d sit there. I’d stare at the telly and eventually realise that I was staring right through it, not even watching. I’d sit cross-legged on my bed and paint my nails. Convince myself I was pampering or having fun. Really? I was lonely, sad, and defeated.
So did Louse nail it with Wilde Like Me? Did I feel like I could relate?
The short answer would be a yes, and I’m happy to say that. I don’t do bottom kissing around here – not my style – and it would have been awkward if I found it a weak read.
I love a good ‘chick lit’ novel, which is the bracket I’d put this into. It’s the sort of book that you’d easily get through on a beach or by a pool somewhere – that is, if you don’t have children (it could take you a bit longer otherwise!). It’s a great one to grab at the airport and the storyline is easy-to-follow, without making it a simple and predictable read.
Do I think you need to be a mum to read it? No. I think it might resonate with you more if you are though.
One of the things that spoke to me the most were Robin’s worries about how her daughter might be affected by her parents’ separation. It’s been three and-a-half years since I split from Bill’s dad, and, to this day, this always crosses my mind. Mum guilt – hell, parent guilt – it can be a tough thing to shake. And every day I worry that my son might live a different life to my daughter because of the decision myself and his father made to pursue happiness, instead of settling. And I could tell that Robin worried about that too.
And part of me wondered, more so with every page I read, if Wilde Like Me maybe slightly autobiographical. It felt like I was reading more than just a fictional tale, of a makeup artist called Robin, mum to Lyla, but also a little about Louise, mum to to Darcy – a woman who has made a fantastic life for herself, and seems to, in my opinion, also be a brilliant author too.
I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. I have received a voucher as a token of thanks for this post.