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Nobody Told Me: Poetry and Parenthood
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Nobody Told Me: Poetry and Parenthood

4.45  ·  Rating details ·  906 ratings  ·  116 reviews
Winner of the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry 2016

There were many things that Hollie McNish didn't know before she was pregnant. How her family and friends would react; that Mr Whippy would be off the menu; how quickly ice can melt on a stomach. These were on top of the many other things she didn't know about babies: how to stand while holding one; how to do a poet
Paperback, 480 pages
Published November 13th 2018 by Blackfriars (first published February 4th 2016)
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Average rating 4.45  · 
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 ·  906 ratings  ·  116 reviews

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Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was really nervous going into to read this.
Nobody Told Me: Poetry & Parenthood, is a chronicle of three years and nine months of poet Hollie McNish life.
From finding out she was pregnant in Kings Cross Station on the way to Glastonbury.
“Three hours staring at three test”
To her daughter first day of pre-school, and everything in between.

I’m not a mum, nor do I have the drive to be. But this book spoke to me in so many ways.
I have learnt so much while being thoroughly and enjoyably entertained
Jun 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best
It's impossible to convey how much I love this book! Every new parent should read this book. Hollie is able to put into words every emotion I have felt since my daughter was born 15 months ago but which I am not eloquent enough to express myself.

I wonder if my brain chemistry has fundamentally changed since becoming a mum because I would never have dreamed of reading a book combining memoir and poetry before she was born but this was now the perfect book for me and I can't remember enjoying a b
Feb 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's like all my own thoughts were articulated perfectly.
Aug 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Everybody should read this, from teenage boys to grandmas. Nobody Told Me is a testament to the experience of motherhood, from the small and seemingly-mundane details that surprised Hollie to the pointed articulation of how motherhood and existence in a world not designed for you is fundamentally political. Her introspection, as well as her observations about her family and the people she interacted with, cut away the veneer of lovey-dovey-ness that surrounds motherhood in particular, and become ...more
Susan Austin
Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved the honesty of this book. I was impressed at how dedicated she must have been to write through the harrowing stages of pregnancy and early parenting (when sleep deprivation makes it so hard) and it's so great to have this kind of account and in-the-moment reflection on some of the issues that arise, many of which I could totally relate to. It left me regretting not doing more writing in the early years of having my kids, but oh well my circumstances are different and we do what we can. Som ...more
Polly Sands
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: have
What a great book. Not just poetry but a bit of a memoir of those years where your life changes forever. As a Mum, midwife, festival goer, breastfeeder (in years gone by), woman, sadly not poet, this is an essential book. I am now recommending it above all accessible baby books, normally I don't recommend them at all so this is high praise. One mate who I told about it who is 5 months pregnant got the audiobook which sounds like it would be even better, as anyone who seen Hollies videos will und ...more
Susan Howson
Feb 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-dream-team
I almost dreaded picking this up every night because it was too real and raw and perfect. Motherhood is profoundly unfair and awful and erodes your confidence and also is the opposite of all those things. It’s bizarre and sometimes it scares me to think about it all. I tend to just do it and not think much about it. This book put it all out there in a way I’ve never seen before and with a tone that felt so genuine. Not mugging for anyone. Anyway it made my stomach hurt with some weird PTSD stuff ...more
Barbora Kraml
Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I have to say I have a soft spot for McNish, I saw her performing in Edinburgh a couple of years ago, and she was so amazing! I love how honest she is - open about all her emotions, and struggles. The poems are fun, optimistic, they often rhyme (I especially love her for this), but most importantly they have a message. McNish has a lot to say, and the way she says it - she just makes you listen.
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I laughed, I cried, I pondered a lot. Loved it.
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was so good I cried multiple times whilst reading it. Hollie McNish just captures emption so purely and so simply it’s seemingly effortless
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-reads
I don't often read books of poetry but this one really got it right.
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thanks Hollie for reminding me how hard it is looking after a baby and young child. You write so eloquently and from the heart, it really brought back to me the ups and downs of parenthood. As a mother whose children are all now adults I had forgotten such a lot of the difficulties; now having been reminded I feel better prepared to help and support my daughter as she becomes a parent. I would recommend this book to anyone as it is a lovely read with raw emotion and some beautiful poems. However ...more
Amy Alice
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this so much! Not only empathy wise but politics wise. Just so poignant and relevant and beautiful. Getting my own copy to come back to over the years!
Fiona Mackie
Loved this so, so much. The mix of poetry and memoir was wonderful and I will be tracking down more of Hollie’s poetry ASAP.
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
'Cos it's gonna be OK
Just a changed sun dawn new day
Like the interlude is played
second part not quite the same

But it's gonna be OK
Not the standard, boring way
Not fairytales but truth
I'm still thrilled I met with you
And as friends or more or less
I'm still blessed I'm here with you


(p. 13)
Apr 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Was handed this book for work, ostensibly because I like poetry. I was excited till I read the opening blurb - this was about a new mum and her journey. Crikey! How wrong an audience I was for this book.

McNish mixes memoir with poems charting the moment she found out she was expecting, through to her child being three years old. That's a lot to pack into a single novel. Despite its length, this book is a quick and easy read.

Most poems start with an intro - some long, others short - recounting
Valerie Pate
May 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am a huge Hollie McNish fan. From the first time I saw her perform live, which was nearly two years ago now, I felt a strong connection to her words and her beliefs; just to her - as a poet, as a person.
I have read this book slowly; savouring every morsel. Soaking it in. I know that it will be a book that I gift to many people; new mothers, parents of toddlers, women I love.
I hear Hollie's voice as I read her words. She is that voice of realism that lets us know that we are not alone. Tha
Kristi Sawyer
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: factual
I'm glad I didn't read this book while pregnant because the first 100 pages would have terrified me! Hollie McNish gives a very honest account of pregnancy and early motherhood, which, when sprinkled with fantastic poems, really tugs on your heartstrings. For prospective or current mothers, I am sure it is utter perfection, but as a non-broody 23-year-old right now, perhaps I am not the best target audience. Nevertheless, I can see how her honesty is inspirational and offers great comfort to wom ...more
Apr 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016
Everyone should read this. Parents, people who want to be parents, and people who don't want to be parents. Those who are and do will feel some solidarity and understanding, those who don't will have their ignorance smashed to smithereens. After reading this book you'll never think 'why would you bring a child on a train at peak hour?' ever again. Hollie's voice is mesmerising, raw, vulnerable, honest, and full of joy. I applaud her and her bravery.
Rachel McKenna-McKeown
I am a little bit in love with Hollie McNish and her words.
She has such an ability to sum things up and express ideas, emotions and incidents so succinctly that it leaves me speechless for a few minutes sometimes. Because I'm left thinking - 'Yes! That's exactly what I think/thought/feel/felt/was going to say'
This book is perfect for anyone embarking on pregnancy or motherhood or reflecting back on the first few years particularly.
Katy Chessum-Rice
Apr 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Having heard Hollie perform live as I started to read the book, I could hear her voice in the poems - which are fantastic! Gives a wonderfully fresh and unflinching perspective on pregnancy and motherhood, you go through the highs and lows with her. I recommend that you look up her performances of her poetry on You Tube. Powerful stuff.
Jane Burnett
Mar 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is wonderful that such a brilliant mum, such a decent human being with insight and honesty has such a talent with words. Poems that stay with you long after the book is finished. A book to revisit time and time again.
Mugren Ohaly
Mar 20, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
The diary entries were interesting and I didn't like any of the poems.
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
God, I loved this. I feel like I'll be shoving it in the hands of every mom with young kids.
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I had a hunch this book would be a cracker and so it was. Everybody and her dog seems, it sometimes feels, has written a book about what becoming and being a mother (or parent) is really like, and someone being a professional writer doesn't always, or even often, shape the language into something I find less obnoxious and worrying for the future. But the blend here of prose and poetry shows what prose can do, what poetry can do (and different sorts of poetry, some that need to be performed some ...more
Aimée Barnes
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: favorites
I haven’t read a poetry book since school, but this just stole the top spot for my favourite book of all time.

I honestly feel like this book should be required reading for anyone aged 20+. Hollie’s depictions of motherhood have inspired me, made me laugh, made me angry, made me want to cry. Her words have had me thinking, “God, having kids sounds awful.” one moment too “oh my god I want one” the next.

The book has given me a whole new appreciation for mothers and parents in general. For children
Tim Regan
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book.

It is a book of real opposites: it made me laugh and cry, it filled me with joy and with anger, it is deeply personal and also political. Hollie takes us through from discovering that she's pregnant on route to a poetry performance at Glastonbury festival right through to when her daughter is three years old.

I love the form too, it is written as diary entries which somehow develop into poems. McNish warns us that these poems are raw and unworked and they are, some of them are
Holly Jackson
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful, funny, honest, inspiring, moving and heartfelt poetry collection from my favourite modern poet! As a soon-to-be parent I think I will come back to many of these poems over and over; there's so much in this book that I can relate to/agree with already and much I'm sure I will soon. Though since I am becoming a parent through adoption, I found the early chapters, particularly the ones dealing with pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding a little self flagellating, so if you've also skipped ...more
Belinda Carvalho
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
Really enjoyed Holly McNish's beautiful, sensitive, honest reflections on parenthood. She writes with real soul, found myself so moved by a few sections, she really examines how our society treats mothers and fathers, boys and girls, race and other issue BUT I found it tediously long (465 pages, all 3 years of her daughter's youth) and that additional length really affected my enjoyment of the brilliant parts. I think this could have been carefully edited into a short & snappy book on the first ...more
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hollie McNish has answered all the questions I didn't know to ask about the nameless terrors of childbirth, breast feeding and parenting.

This book is conscious and alive; full of urbane, everyday kind of humanity. Hollie's expositions of her own fears, insecurities and concerns are coupled with astute, generous observations about race, class, gender, love, and affection. The stories about taking toddlers on trains, about sharing looks with another mum in the park, about trying to buy children's
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“So I lay her to sleep
and wipe off the milk
and step into the next room
for some innocent filth
in the middle of which
her scream jolts me up
And I transform breast once more
between lover
and love.”
More quotes…