The Cows – by Dawn O-Porter
Posy Churchgate Book Reviews
I picked this as a book club read during the summer lockdown and my readers and I devoured it with a huge appetite. None of them know that I write a sexy lifestyle blog, and that for me this book revealed a hero.
The story is told in the voices of three very different women, not in their twenties and not yet middle-aged.
Tara juggles being a single mother with making investigative television documentaries. Cam is a high profile blogger, unafraid to reveal her innermost thoughts on any topic. Stella seems, on the surface, an efficient PA to a photographer while on another level desperately struggling with bereavement and mental health demons.
I read the book, but some in book group listened on audio, which utilises two female actors alongside Dawn – who voices Tara’s drama – and drama is no understatement. Tara gets literally thrown to the wolves of our electronic driven society. When a few moments of her private life are captured without her knowledge, they’re splashed all over the world via social media, Tara is left to deal with a massive fall out.
Social media has the opposite effect on Cam’s life – she’s found her voice and her platform. Having felt out of step with the world in general, and her family in particular, Cam flowers in the spotlight. She shoots from the hip, leads by example and her followers become empowered, they feel ‘seen’ by what she posts.
Stella is consumed with grief, having lost her twin to cancer and her mother. It’s a constant struggles to move on and function anywhere except at work. Her boss, a successful photographer, is writing a book and in order to concentrate, he allows Stella to orchestrate his life. But does she have his best interests at heart?
These three very different women are from diverse backgrounds which would normally have little overlap or chance to meet, but the Cows is not about ordinary circumstances. Each protagonist is pushed into a place which they find unfamiliar, timing and events force them into the discomfort of flying by the seat of their pants. I found myself both cringing in places and cheering for their resourcefulness.
The Cows, launched using the Twitter hashtag #DontFollowTheHerd, dabbles in the concept of herd mentality and the struggle of going against the flow or striking out on one’s own. It illustrates the strain of maintaining a balance between the intrusive nature of social media and the importance of maintaining one’s integrity.
Reading this book against the backdrop of the events of summer 2020, it resonated strongly with everyone in my book club.
Brace yourself for adult content and some shock moments, but savour them. Despite featuring three strong female central characters, the book is certainly not typical chick lit. Written shortly after having her first child, Dawn unpacks some quite big issues: cancer, fertility, abortion, the perception of women who choose not to have children, but look elsewhere if you want them discussed in depth, because the messages stay mainly up-beat.
I’ve also read Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O’Porter which I highly recommend. A YA/ coming of age novel where two girls, from very different backgrounds, form an unexpected friendship which helps them navigate the shark infested waters of their late teens.