The Cows by Dawn O'Porter

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The Cows by Dawn O'Porter

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Kate Jones
Reviewed by Kate Jones
Summary: A bold, perceptive novel exploring modern women's lives and friendships, which, whilst containing interesting ideas, promised much but didn't always deliver.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 464 Date: April 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0008126032

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Reading the blurb for this novel, the first novel for adults by author Dawn O'Porter, I got very excited. It talks about the cow being a piece of meat, born to breed, one of the herd, and compares this to women, saying how they don't have to fall into a stereotype. I expected a slightly subversive novel about feminism. What I found was an easy to read, enjoyable romp through three modern women's lives.

The book, though fairly substantial at over 400 pages, is quick and easy to read. It focuses on three women: Cam, a successful blogger who tells it like it is, encouraging women to own their decisions to remain childless; Tara, a single mother and TV documentary maker; and Stella, a young PA suffering with grief over the death of her twin sister and mother to cancer. These three women are not friends at the outset, but twists of fate connect them as the book progresses.

The book is good at showing the effect social medial and trolling can have on women in today's society, and the consequences of our actions. Tara, following an unfortunate incident on a train after a first date, becomes an internet sensation, and O'Porter shows the way this unravels her successful career and leaves her afraid to leave the house. O'Porter explores the very real trial by media that follows, bringing Cam into contact with Tara. Stella is a more complex character. Having been informed she carries the BRCA gene, she has been offered a full mastectomy and removal of her ovaries, due to the early death of both her twin sister and mother. She is clearly a character unravelling, who knows her only chance of having a child naturally is running out, making her take desperate measures.

The book explores women's sexuality and the right to explore it without comment. It also explores themes of trolling, how women are judged by others and perceived in the media, and the importance of female friendships, as well as women's right to choices over their own fertility and reproduction. These are all themes I think need exploring, whether in fiction or non-fiction, and which interest me. However, I did find O'Porter's book, whilst wishing to banish stereotypes, at times felt like the characters were actually stereotypes themselves. We have the usual guilt of the working mother; the disapproval of parents of the women's lifestyles; and the men in the story also felt slightly one-dimensional. I felt the characters and situations slightly unbelievable and difficult to connect with.

Overall, the story is uplifting and is a celebration of the strength of women, and encourages women to have confidence in their strengths. For me, it fell a little short of its premise, but I think it will appeal to women looking for a new idea on feminism.

If you enjoy this, you might like The Motherhood Walk of Fame by Shari Low.

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Buy The Cows by Dawn O'Porter at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Cows by Dawn O'Porter at


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