Jim's Reviews > May Contain Nuts

May Contain Nuts by John O'Farrell
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's review
Jun 02, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: humorous, this-sceptred-isle, fiction

A satire on obsessive middle class parenting. Alice and Dave are over-informed and under-critical, adopting every faddish theory on child-rearing devised by so-called experts. Alice reads books like Feng Shui Your Brain and The Karma Accountant (Dharma auditing software sold separately). Their social circle are mostly pretentious snobs who rationalize their neo-liberal condescencion (and fear) of the working class and ethnic minorities in terms of wanting to get their own children into a suitable school. (The state school attended by the working class and minority children is, of course, "unsuitable".)

Alice and Dave want the "best" for their children. They schedule every moment of free-time with tutoring, sport, dance lessons, music lessons, etc. Everything they feed their children is gluten-free, organic, and monitored to avoid brain allergies, which Alice read about in The Brain Allergy Cookbook. All games must have an educational purpose. Most importantly, their children must be shown to be superior to all others. When it turns out that their eldest daughter is unable to pass the entrance exam for a posh secondary school, Alice disguises herself and takes the exam in her daughter's place. After this, things get complicated.

Like everything John O'Farrell has written, this was pretty funny, although at times it was a little too much like real life. As a teacher, I met a lot of people who had crossed the line between being good parents and being overbearing, know-it-all jerks, who insist that their children are young demigods who deserve special treatment. Still, it was fun to watch O'Farrell push Alice to the edge of ridiculousness and then push her in.

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