Bree T's Reviews > The Cows

The Cows by Dawn O'Porter
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May 18, 2017

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bookshelves: arc, contemporary, women-s-fiction
Read on May 19, 2017

Hmmm.

I’m kind of in two minds about this book.

I enjoyed parts of it. I thought a lot of what Cam, who is a “lifestyle blogger” (a term I really dislike) had to say was quite interesting. She was childless by choice, having no intention to ever have children. She was comfortable with her decision, even ecstatic about it. She enjoyed her life, she was quite well off due to her blog having hundreds of thousands of subscribers and she constantly had to defend her choice both on the blog and in public. People always seemed to feel that there was something wrong with her for not wanting children, that she was selfish because that’s a woman’s job, right? To continue to populate the Earth and all that. Her mother was the worst offender, constantly pressuring Cam and wondering where she herself went wrong because Cam didn’t want children. Despite the fact that Cam’s three sisters all had children and she wasn’t lacking in the grandchildren department, Cam’s mother constantly questioned Cam’s decisions and attempted to convince her that she wasn’t really happy with her choices. I found it insulting that she was questioned if she was a lesbian because she wasn’t interested in having children. Why are those two things linked? There are plenty of lesbians that have children and I’m sure there are plenty more that want children. And some that probably don’t.

It’s a debate that has circled for probably as long as the first woman chose not to have children. Why? What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you want children? I don’t really understand the back and forth to be honest, I don’t care at all if someone has children or doesn’t, it’s none of my business. But there are people that think it’s “weird” and you only have to look at the musings around women like Dame Helen Mirren and of course the former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, referred to as unfit for leadership because she was “deliberately barren”. It was different to hear so much from a woman who wasn’t interesting in having children and was ready to defend her choice. I admired Cam and I think she was probably the most fleshed out, genuine character. Definitely my favourite.

I felt sorry for Stella but to be honest that only went so far. She’d had a very tough time, losing her mother and then her twin sister to vicious cancers. Stella also carries the BCRA gene as well which according to the book, gave her something like an 85% chance of developing either breast or ovarian cancer. They are some scary, scary odds and as things slowly fell apart for Stella, she became more and more unhinged, taking part in some truly horrible deceptions. She had some terrible choices to make and as I said, I did feel for her. I don’t know what it’s like to be in that situation. She faced being childless but not by choice as well as having the things that many identify as making them feminine/female etc, removed. Stella has apparently, great breasts but in order to reduce her risk of cancer, it’s likely she’ll have to undergo a complete mastectomy which is for someone who is in their 20s, an incredibly confronting experience. I felt that Stella really neglected herself in her grief – some counselling might’ve helped her not sink to the lows that she does. She’s very hung up on the loss of her sister, seeing herself as the more boring, less fun twin that no one really cares about now that her sister is gone. But at the same time Stella has also alienated herself from everyone, with the exception of one of her friends and her boss Jason, both of whom end up being on the receiving end of Stella’s deceptions and lies.

Of the three women, I found Tara’s story the least enjoyable and to be honest, the least convincing. Tara is filmed masturbating on a train (she believed the carriage was empty) and it goes “viral”, losing her her job, making her a laughingstock and causing various people to question her capability as single mother to her daughter. I don’t think it’s okay when you involve (even inadvertently) other people in your sexual activities. I don’t care about people masturbating but to be honest, doing it in public on a train on a Friday night? Hardly the most private location in the world, is it? Why would you want to? That’s not to say that I didn’t feel like Tara was demonised too much – she was. Psychologists on TV questioning her sanity, a chopped up television interview, everyone everywhere having witnessed her private moment, including her parents. But her private moment wasn’t private, it was public, although she didn’t deserve to be filmed without her permission. Tara is lucky not to be charged and to be honest I found her steadfast refusal to apologise a bit offputting. To be honest that whole scenario rang false for me, it just didn’t feel believable that there would be no one on a train on a Friday night and that even if someone had assumed they were alone, that they would perform that act, confident that their alone status wouldn’t change. Likewise I also found it rang false that the one person who was looking for Tara didn’t see that video due to an “internet ban”. It took over so much more than just the internet. The ending wasn’t really successful for me either, for similar reasons.

This book raised some interesting questions but there was a of circling around the same debate as well as a few situations that just didn’t really feel believable or genuine.
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