I’ve been a member of the Mumsnet book club for three months now and I’m really enjoying being immersed in these diverse, female led stories. This months book is The Cows by Dawn O’Porter who you probably know as a writer, celebrated journalist and documentary maker. I’ve always been a fan of her work, iconic bob and of course her borderline punk feminism. Dawn… if you’re reading this, let’s be friends?
A piece of meat; born to breed; past its sell-by-date; one of the herd.
Three women. A whole world of judgement.
Tara, Cam and Stella are very different women. Yet in a society that sets the agenda, there’s something about being a woman that ties invisible bonds between us.
When one extraordinary event rockets Tara to online infamy, their three worlds collide in ways they could never imagine – and they discover that one woman’s catastrophe might just be another’s inspiration.
Through friendship and conflict, difference and likeness, they’ll learn to find their own voices.
Because sometimes it’s OK not to follow the herd.
I’ll start by saying I adored this book. I read it at the speed of light, enjoying it so much I almost wanted to skim some parts so as to leave myself little treasures of description to read for the first time when I inevitably pick it up again in a month or two. The Cows is the story of three women whos lives collide in the most modern and unusual ways you could think of. The book has it all – sex, shame, judgement, motherhood, grief.
Stella has lost both her mother and twin sister to cancer and has been told she carried the BRCA gene. She’s up against the clock to have a baby before preventative surgery.
Cam is a successful lifestyle blogger who promotes independence and childlessness but her offline persona is very awkward and possibly even lonely – although she’d protest that!
Tara is a single mum working in a male dominated tv company who becomes an online viral sensation when she is filmed masturbating on a train she thought was empty.
I really enjoyed how all the characters stories eventually intertwined, as the focus switches between them for each chapter you get a little piece of the story from a different perspective. At times it made me question the version of themselves each was presenting, when I read about them from the point of view of another.
There are a few lighthearted digs at bloggers which I found really funny but I did appreciate that O’Porter clearly took the time to understand how that industry works. Although I didn’t find Cam massively likeable at times she was a very well rounded character – something tells me O’Porter has met a blogger or two!
Of course The Cows is a work of fiction but the core themes of shame, trolling and what it means to be a women are all too real. It deals with massively real issues like public humiliation and slut shaming in the digital era as well as motherhood and a womans place in the home and workforce. I think a lot of mothers will resonate with Tara, I know I did. One line from her in particular really hit home for me;
‘This feeling of never being fully enough for anyone worries me’
I think the most important thing about The Cows is that it portrays three strong women, each flawed in their own way and none claiming to be the heroine. For me, Tara was the star, I related so much to her struggle with her identity as a woman and a mother and especially to how she doubted herself and felt like when didn’t have a firm ‘place’.
Whilst it’s unlikely any of you are ever going to be filmed doing rudes on a train I would recommend this book to all the young women of today. The Cows is relatable, funny and raw.