The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy by Fiona Neill

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The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy by Fiona Neill

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: The other side of the story, this is a wicked look at motherhood of the slummy rather than yummy variety, with some killer lines and juicy characters.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: January 2008
Publisher: Arrow Books Ltd
ISBN: 978-0099502883

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In the age of yummy mummies, it's quite refreshing to read about the other side of the story – those who don't have their well behaved children sitting neatly in spotless white outfits while they themselves show off their size zero bodies in the latest designer frocks. Those who are in fact more slummy than yummy. Lucy Sweeney is one of those mothers, the sort who count the day as successful if they remember to put a coat on top of PJs for the school run, and if the children's projectile vomiting incidents stay in the single figures. She first came to life in a column in the Saturday Times magazine, and her story continues now in this book.

I really like the columns in the magazine – they were short and feisty, much like their heroine. There are two types of books-from-columns, those which are purely a collection of previously published materials, and those which take the ideas from said columns and pad out a story with them. This book is the second type, and to have a whole, on-going story about the characters developed in depth was a bit strange, but the final results were good, with only the odd episodic moment.

Lucy is mother to three young boys, married to Husband On A Short Fuse and trying to bumble her way through life at the kids' London school which has its own rather unique cast of characters – Celebrity Dad, Alpha Mum, Yummy Mummy #1 and the rather delicious Sexy Domesticated Dad. Lucy used to be a highflying career woman – she has a career in television, and was doing quite well for herself – but somehow she hasn't, well, gelled with motherhood. She's a kind, caring mother, just slightly disorganised, as evidenced by the state of her house and the contents of her kitchen cupboards. Trying to calm the anal concerns of Husband On A Short Fuse while keeping up with the Yummy Mummies of her school, she wonders where her fabulous previous life has disappeared to. Her friends don't help much – with their affairs with married men and their party-animal antics, they do little to make a slutty single life seem any less-appealing.

I love Lucy because despite the chaos in her life, she is a smart 'un who is fabulous at thinking on her feet and getting herself out of uncomfortable situations. We're practicing a Tracy Emin installation... 'An Unmade Car' she exclaims when the Head teacher seems shocked by the state of the inside of her Volvo. I taught a Business English class this morning in which we discussed Churchill's idea that Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm, an idea which describes Lucy perfectly. She survives humiliation, mixed messages, rejection and confusion, remaining optimistic that things will all work out in the end, which they have a habit of doing where she is concerned. I also liked the descriptions of the other parents and their various neuroses. I can see why this book could make some parents feel much better about themselves given the other images often portrayed in the media.

The book loses a star for the ending which is hilariously improbable – I can't give too much away but it's a comedy of errors which even those with the most believing of minds would find hard to take. It was funny to read at the time, but on the final page where the book ends you do finish up wondering if, seriously, that's all there is. My real complaint though is that Lucy ends up talking about things she never has the guts to do, which is not the sort of character I took her for – if she had thought about things for half the book and then either jumped straight in, or turned her back, it would have been ok, but to talk and consider and discuss possible scenarios for so much of the book without actually doing anything? That kinda got on my nerves.

The Motherhood Walk of Fame is another lively book about the highs and lows of motherhood, while in Any Way You Want Me Sadie has the clichéd yummy mummy life Lucy dreams of, but still feels something is missing.

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Buy The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy by Fiona Neill at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy by Fiona Neill at


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