Meet the Battles: Mo, the mother is fast approaching 50 and feels grey inside and out. The sparkle has gone out of her life and out of herself, and even though she’s a trained child psychologist, she doesn’t seem to understand her own children.
Dora is nearly 18, and is struggling to juggle her friends, her boyfriend woes, her dreams of becoming a pop star and her addiction to Facebook.
Peter is 16 and insists on being called Oscar, after his hero Oscar Wilde. He is very intelligent, if perhaps slightly delusional and is about to develop a crush on a most unsuitable candidate.
Even the poor dog Poo has landed in a sticky situation – pregnant by an unknown suitor!
The story is narrated by these three characters, who also make references to their husband/father who’s always in the background trying to hold everything together.
The family are all living in their own worlds, and they’re lurching slowly from one crisis to the next one, and at some point things are going to collide…
Earlier this year I read Dawn French’s autobiograph of sorts (‘Dear Fatty’), which I enjoyed but found difficult to initially get into. I had no such difficulties with this book, which captured my attention from the beginning. It’s alternated in turn by Mo, Dora and Peter/Oscar, and the three voices are very distinct. However, I did think that Dora’s character in particular was very much a stereotype (although this did not stop me warming to her as the story progressed).
The book is essentially a comedy, and while it did not make me laugh out loud, it certainly made me giggle and smile a lot. However, in amongst the comedy, there were some touching moments. Oscar, who seems so self-obssessed for much of the story, proves that he can be caring and thoughtful. And it’s not long before the combative and stroppy Dora is soon revealed to be lacking in self confidence and uncertain about her future. However, I did find some of her segments slightly jarring (because she like, overused like the word ‘like’ constantly), due to the exaggerated teenage language.
The husband, who for the most part is only known to the reader through the words of his family easily comes across as the most sympathetic member of the family, closely followed by Mo’s mother Pamela, who is also only known to the reader through the words of the family.
My favourite parts were those narrated by the fabulously intelligent Oscar, who has clear delusions of grandeur. While it would have been easy to dismiss him as ego-centric and self absorbed, he showed moments of genuine tenderness and thoughtfulness. He loves to talk in the style of Oscar Wilde, and his observations and remarks were often acidly funny.
Overall, while some parts of the book were slightly cliched and predictable, there was plenty to enjoy in this book, and I would recommend it.