Monday, 30 October 2017

Book Review: YOU BE MOTHER by Meg Mason

Author: Meg Mason
HarperCollins Publishers Australia
October 2017
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Book Description:

What do you do, when you find the perfect family, and it's not yours? A charming, funny and irresistible novel about families, friendship and tiny little white lies.

The only thing Abi ever wanted was a proper family. So when she falls pregnant by an Australian exchange student in London, she cannot pack up her old life in Croydon fast enough, to start all over in Sydney and make her own family. It is not until she arrives, with three-week-old Jude in tow, that Abi realises Stu is not quite ready to be a father after all. And he is the only person she knows in this hot, dazzling, confusing city, where the job of making friends is turning out to be harder than she thought. That is, until she meets Phyllida, her wealthy, charming, imperious older neighbour, and they become almost like mother and daughter. If only Abi had not told Phil that teeny tiny small lie, the very first day they met… 

My musings:

You Be Mother is a delightful, bittersweet book that left a certain warm and fuzzy feeling in its wake long after I finished reading it. There are too few of these types of books around, where you get sucked so deeply into the story that you wish it would never end. But to call it just a feel-good book would be doing it an injustice, because it is so much more than that. In Abi and Phil, Mason has created unforgettable characters that I would love to meet down at the local coffee shop for a cuppa and a chat. I was so reluctant to let them go when the book ended, feeling like I was losing lifelong friends! I also admit shedding a few tears, because when I say bitter-sweet, I mean that the book tackles a few of life’s difficult issues, like death, abandonment, loneliness and the different dynamics found in families, including this most precious and fraught relationship of all, the mother-daughter bond.

Abi, a young mother from Croydon, arrives with her small baby in Sydney, to be reunited with Stu, her son’s father, and start a new life. Settling in Cremorne, in a small flat owned by Stu’ parents, Abi soon finds that Stu may not be ready yet to play happy families as he continues to lead his bachelor life, leaving her and baby Jude alone for long periods of time whilst he studies and meets his mates at the pub until the early morning hours. She tries to overcome her loneliness by taking Jude for long walks in the pram. It is during one of those walks that she stumbles across the Cremorne ocean pool, and meets Phyllida Woolnough, who turns out to be her neighbour, living in a stately home next door to the apartment block. Phil is also battling with loneliness after the recent death of her husband, and all her grown- up children having flown the nest to live overseas. Soon Abi and Phil strike up an unusual friendship, each filling a need in the other– Phil serving as a mother substitute for Abi, and Abi and Jude seamlessly slipping into the gap Phil’s children have left behind. But blood is thicker than water – or is it? As Phil’s children get involved, Abi and Phil’s friendship is bound to get a lot more complicated ...

Having emigrated myself at an early age and raising my babies without the help of family, far away from my old life, I really related to Abi. I remember walking for hours with my first-born asleep in the pram, just to get out of the house and talk to other grown-up people. We also created our own extended “family” from older friends who filled the grandparent gap for my children. Lucky for me, I had a partner who was very involved with his kids, and some great friends, who soon quelled the loneliness. But reading about Abi brought back so many memories of that time, and I felt like giving her a huge bear hug of the sort I often craved myself when crying for my mother!

Phyllida Woolnough, Phil for short, was a delightful character and reminded me of someone I know in real life (though I can never reveal who). She is, as she states herself “in the dusty flute stage of life” and was so delightfully eccentric that there were many laugh-out loud moments as she shared her wry observations and ideas with the reader. Phil is a bit of a mercurial character, warm and welcoming one minute and somewhat remote and cold the next. In her postscript, Mason calls Phil “the pleasure of my life to write” and states that she cannot believe Phil doesn’t really exist. Yes, I felt exactly the same. In fact, all characters, the Woolnough children included, seemed so real to me they could have stepped out of the pages of the book, seamlessly inserting themselves into reality. Kudos to the author for creating such a believable “alternative truth” that I am still grieving for the characters now that the last page has been turned. 


I loved You Be Mother and found it to be a delightful read that took me off to another world and made me look forward to the hours I could spend reading. Sometime laugh-out-loud funny, other times sad, this was a warm, insightful, bittersweet and very poignant book about families that I cannot recommend highly enough. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it! 

Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Read about Meg Mason on writing You Be Mother: link

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