30 Mar 2014


A couple of years ago I read 'The Bad Mother's Handbook', also written by Kate Long, and fell in love with her writing style.

Her stories are raw and gritty, and as close to real life as you can get, although I will say that some people may struggle with the local dialect she sometimes uses if you are not from around that area (this story was set in Wigan in Lancashire).

The story revolves around 18 year old Katherine Millar, an intelligent yet self-doubting girl, who lives with her partially sighted grandmother, Pollyanna Millar. Katherine gets bullied at school by the popular kids for being overweight and 'too swotty', and Poll adds to this by constantly putting her down, keeping her confined to the house, only allowing her out when completely necessary, and teasing her for being big, telling her that no man will ever want her, etc, and this in turn encourages Katherine to dabble in Bulimia. 

Roger, Katherine's father and Poll's only adored son, was killed in a car crash when Katherine was just a tiny baby. Poll always insisted that the accident was the fault of Katherine's mother, Elizabeth, who disappeared shortly afterwards, leaving Poll to take care of Katherine, who has virtually kept her a prisoner for eighteen years. Desperate to throw off the chains of confinement, Katherine locks horns with her grandmother, demanding more freedom, that she should be able to come and go as she pleases now that she is of age. This doesn't go down well with Poll and she swiftly embarks on her own campaign to place Katherine on a guilt trip, deliberately pouring hot water down herself, amongst other things, to make Katherine feel bad for wanting to spend more time away from her.

Katherine finds sanctuary at her local library, forming a strong bond with the two resident librarians, Miss Ollerton and Miss Stockley. She settles into a life of being a reluctant carer, watching mind-numbing daytime television and fending off amorous advances from her grandmother's perverted friend and neighbour 'Dickie Dogman', until one day, the arrival of a mysterious cousin, laid-back, self assured Callum, throws her world into disarray. He brings about a change in Katherine and from that point onwards, her life takes a completely different path, with plenty of surprises thrown in for good measure. 

I can honestly say that I didn't want this book to end, and I'm hoping the story will be made into a drama, as her last book was! Although this story was fictional, Kate Long captures unconventional family life in all it's fractured and nonsensical glory. For me, she understands perfectly that family is not always about being biologically related to someone else. In these messed up times, where related people no longer stick together through a sense of loyalty and belonging, you find family where you can, in the people who stick around because they want to, and not because they feel an obligation! 

I highly recommend this book!


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