A Mother's Story by Amanda Prowse

imageWhen newly weds Jessica and Matthew find out she is pregnant, it’s unexpected but not unwelcome news.  They had planned on waiting a while until they had children – they’re only in their early 20’s – but it isn’t like they didn’t want them and, with good jobs and a nice home, a baby feels like a perfect addition to their pretty perfect life.  Unfortunately, once their little girl is born, things are not as perfect as they had hoped as Jessica struggles to come to terms with motherhood and those around her struggle to understand just what is happening.

A Mother’s Story opens with Jessica being admitted to hospital, where she is treated with a mix of kindness and complete disrespect and disdain by the nurses, before returning to her wedding day and telling the story of her and Matthew’s courtship and the early days of their marriage through to her admittance.  Each chapter gives a snapshot of their lives before ending with a diary entry, written by Jessica and set in the present.  It paints a much darker picture of her life than the chapters would suggest.  And it shows just how deep a depression she is in as she is diagnosed with and tries to recover from post natal depression.

This isn’t something I have experience of myself and I don’t know anyone directly who has but I work in the mental health field and I know it is not only common but can be debilitating at a time when women are supposed to be at their happiest.  I think Amanda Prowse does a really good job of presenting the condition sympathetically and explaining it without being overly factual in a work of fiction.  I did feel for Jessica, although as a couple, she and Matthew are quite sickeningly happy and possibly a little too perfect for me.  I think, though, that part of the idea of this was to show that post natal depression can happen to anyone and it can be completely life changing and out of a person’s control.

Even with this, I did enjoy it, though not as much as the first (and only other) Amanda Prowse novel I’ve read – What Have I Done.  This might be because I listened to vs. read the book and found the narration a little off-putting at times – it was done by Prowse herself and her voice just didn’t seem to fit for me or have enough range when the different characters were speaking.  I stopped more than once for a few days before continuing because I did want to know how it ended.  Which mean that, overall, I would have to say I liked vs. loved this book.  Still, worth a read (vs. listen!).

Emma

 

A Bunch of Sweet Peas by Henry Donald

Recently, I came across a great little short story from (where else?) my local library. With it being a short story, a review didn’t seem in order but I really enjoyed it so thought I would do a quick post as a recommendation. If you have half an hour or so to spare and want something light-hearted to take up the time, you wouldn’t do to badly with this. Even better, try to get the audio version, which is narrated by Judi Dench.

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A bunch of sweet peas is the story of a national sweet pea competition hosted by the Daily Mail in 1911. And it really doesn’t seem like it could take place in any other time. It’s a really sweet tale (pun intended) and a very simple one.

A newly wed living in a small Scottish village is convinced by this part-time gardener to enter the competition. Although he doesn’t think he has a chance of winning, he gets drawn in, worrying about his plants and whether they will survive the sudden heat wave that has hit the country. First prize is a £1,000. Second £50. It’s second he would like to buy a new alter for the church. His wife would like £50 too; their house is bare as they are just married. Some furniture and curtains would be nice. Thanks to the rules, they can both enter.

They aren’t the only ones thinking how nice the money would be – it was an extraordinary amount back in the day (heck, I wouldn’t mind a £1,000 now either). Over 15,000 people applied for the competition, causing a logistical nightmare for the postal service and a full days worth of judging for the paper. Everything was carefully planned as box after box of sweet peas arrived at the Alexander Palace.

How much effort it takes to grow what seems like such a simple plant fascinated me and just how simple the whole idea was but how it swept the nation was wonderful to read. And then, of course, there was the will they / won’t they win question – I won’t give the answer here but you can probably guess.

The audio recording I listened to was 40 minutes long (I think the story is around 50 pages) and it flew by. Loved it!

Emma x