The Rise And Fall Of A Domestic Diva by Sarah May

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The Rise And Fall Of A Domestic Diva by Sarah May

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Chloe Spooner
Reviewed by Chloe Spooner
Summary: Kate Hunter is always trying to keep up with The Joneses, and getting into St Anthony's is the latest obsession for all the parents on Prendergast Road. A dark look at family and friends, and how far people will go to save face.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: December 2008
Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN: 978-0007232338

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Kate Hunter is happily married to husband Robert, and together they have two children. They have a lovely home on the posh Prendergast Road in London, but it isn't enough for Kate. She is desperate for her son Findlay to get into illustrious St Anthony's, the best school around and the one where all her friends are vying for places. But beneath all the false pleasantries and pretence, Kate and all of her friends have their own reasons for being miserable. Will they open up to their friends about their real dilemmas or is putting on a brave face more important than letting each other know they're only human?

I haven't read any Sarah May novels before but I do know people who have read her previous book The Rise and Fall of the Queen of Suburbia and have enjoyed it. Therefore I was hoping that I'd enjoy this one. Labelled as a 'darkly comic tale', the book promised humour, a peek into the lives of the well-to-do families of London, and how far these people are prepared to go to get their children where they want them to be. It sounded like it was going to be a very enjoyable read, and it was that, but just be aware that this definitely isn't light-hearted 'chick lit' at all, it's much deeper and more serious than that.

As soon as I started reading the book, I was very quickly into the story as the main character of Kate was very likeable and I liked how the author launched into home life at the Hunter's, complete with doolally mother-in-law Margery. The first couple of chapters were fairly amusing but the comedy quickly dropped out in favour of saddening twists and turns, miserable and depressed characters and very coniving people who really set out to lie and deceive each other. Although the characters themselves weren't all that likeable, you could see why they were behaving in this manner because the place at that particular school was important to them, but I personally just couldn't see why they couldn't be honest with each other considering they were such close friends...a real case of keeping up appearances here!

I did feel very sorry for Kate throughout the book, it was clear that she was suffering some form of depression as she kept forgetting her own daughter existed and was struggling financially as well as emotionally, and I felt perhaps the author was using this more a comic tool than as seriously as it should have been. Her husband Robert was clearly having trouble as well, which at first started as something funny but soon because serious like the rest of the book, although the change in his tone was fully understandable. The characters were very well written and I did enjoy their stories, albeit even if their lives did seem a tad bleak!

The book covers a period of three months from April through to June, and I found the focus on the characters changed through this period as well. It started off being completely about Kate's family but as the book moved into May, and then June, Kate's family was seldom mentioned and we followed the lives of other families in the road. I felt that this was a nice change but unfortunately they were more depressing than Kate, and certainly more mixed up and there just seemed no end to the sadness for the families. It would have been nice to see a light at the end of the tunnel at some point, but at least the book seemed to continue along the same vein throughout.

It's well written which does make you want to keep reading, but I did find myself hoping hard more than once for something nice to happen to the families of Prendergast Road! Although there are quite a lot of characters in the book because it follows different families, I didn't find it too hard to follow as I have done in the past with similar books because the characters were easily identifiable. I did enjoy the read and Sarah May has produced a good grown-up read here, delving deep into the world of elitist schools and how these high expectations effect those aiming for those places. A very good read.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

For a lighter look at local competition you might like to read our review of Notting Hell by Rachel Johnson.

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Buy The Rise And Fall Of A Domestic Diva by Sarah May at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Rise And Fall Of A Domestic Diva by Sarah May at


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