Review of The Cows, by Dawn O’Porter

Not at all sure I’ve chosen the right rating because I’m uncertain whether to regard The Cows as a work of satiric fiction or a domestic drama about contemporary life. The principal characters are women just crossing the threshold of middle-age, tho’ their emotional age is about 16. They are employed on the margins of what is referred to as ‘the creative sector’: Tara a producer ot television documentaries, Stella the PA for a famous photographer, & Camie, a blogger who advocates for women to be free to be childless & enjoy sex without commitment, putting her beliefs into action with a 26 y/o boy-toy. Both Tara & Stella are hot for the photographer for different reasons. Tara has a child but needs a man; Stella, who has bad genes requiring a hysterectomy and mastectomies, wants a baby. But after her first unconsummated encounter with the photog Jason, Tara is videoed masturbating in a tube train and goes viral as the Wandsworth Wank Woman whilst Jason accidentally loses his mobile phone down a town drain. (Neither of these incidents, BTW, is remotely believable.) There is a marvellously embarrassing television interview that Tara subjects herself too, which I found totally convincing and darkly hilarious. The mores in this world are quite foreign to me: boy-toy gets blogger pregnant and—surprise—he wants a relationship & blogger to have baby. But as the voice of childless women, blogger determines on abortion instead, but then was written out of the script in a totally arbitrary and unconvincing accident. When word transpires that blogger was 9 weeks pregnant (I am still trying to figure out how the public finds out—so far as I know obituaries don’t usually include this sort of information), her followers are most upset that she should be such an unprincipled hypocrite as to fall pregnant till they discover (how?) that Stella had scheduled an abortion in the next couple of days, proving she was a person of high standards after all. Meanwhile, at literally the climactic moment, Tara interrupts Jason with the avid to conceive Stella. As we are assured that Jason finds Stella attractive, and her only interest is the baby, why didn’t she simply ask if he would be kind enough to perform this favour of impregnating her? It’d scarcely take him away from the book he is trying to finish for more than five minutes! The more you think about the plot of this book, the more it disintegrates. But parts of it are indeed hilariously funny, and I also learned a huge amount about matters that many of us single males know little about like ovulation cycles and cough syrup.

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