Fearlessly frank and funny, the debut adult novel from Dawn O’Porter needs to be talked about.
A piece of meat; born to breed; past its sell-by-date; one of the herd.
Women don’t have to fall into a stereotype.
THE COWS is a powerful novel about three women. In all the noise of modern life, each needs to find their own voice.
It’s about friendship and being female.
It’s bold and brilliant.
It’s searingly perceptive.
It’s about never following the herd.
And everyone is going to be talking about it.
The Cows is Dawn O’Porter’s debut adult novel and, like the author herself, the book is wonderfully frank, brilliantly bold and incredibly perceptive on the struggles of women in modern London. The books centres around three key women and their different struggles with themselves and with the world’s perception of them.
We begin with Tara, a single-mother, and TV producer currently working on a sexual harassment documentary. While Tara captures the chauvinists on camera it seems she battles them every day in her own office. Instead of outright sexist remarks, Tara battles the subtle patronising and man-splaining that seems to be so familiar to millennial women nowadays. As a single-mother, her work ethic is called into question. How dare she leave on time at five to pick up her child. This battle is something all working mothers are used to facing, the balance between work and motherhood, professionalism against personal, career versus family.
Cam is on a very different playing field. A renowned blogger, making her money through her words and living in a lovely London flat all on her own, Camilla is who we’ve all secretly –or not so secretly- wished to be. Her trouble? Her family can’t accept her for who she is. Cam doesn’t want children, doesn’t want to get married, and is happy all on her own. What strikes me about this scenario is that O’Porter places this battle firmly between the women. It’s Cam’s dad who is the supportive parent here and her sisters and mother who cannot grasp her lifestyle. Cows makes a bold statement and one that needs to be heard here, expectations for women do not just come from men; they come from our own gender too.
We finally come to our third and final character that makes up the third perspective in the novel. Stella is the sister to a dead twin, and daughter of a deceased mother. Having lost her family to cervical and breast cancer, she is faced with a choice. To remove the parts of her that make her a woman, or to suffer the same fate as her family. A grieving woman wrapped in her own pain, Stella is, arguably, the most complicated character, and also the most un-relatable. Her pain is not something that can be empathised with by every woman, but it is one that needs to be brought to attention.
Dawn’s structure is an easy one to settle yourself into. Three women, three different problems with society and three very different outcomes for them all. While I won’t spoil the most shocking part of the book which is sure to have you blushing, Tara, easily the key protagonist and most like Dawn (or at least in my mind), soon becomes a viral sensation and has to deal with the world’s prejudices on female sexuality. Cam, enjoying her blogging life and young lovers, soon finds herself trapped in her worst nightmare. Her solution however, is a simple one, or at least to many modern women, but not, perhaps, to her own family. Stella, lost in her own search for meaning after the death of her twin, soon finds herself embroiled in a tangled web of lies that at times proves hard to read.
Wickedly funny, Dawn O’Porter’s adult debut deals with relevant issues that women face every day and bring them to the forefront of our minds. Are women allowed to express their sexuality? Why do we lie to our partners about our sexual past? Does a functioning womb make us female? And if we choose not to use it, should we be punished for this?
While at times it may feel like a few of the characters become caricatures, Dawn’s fresh perspective and bold story-telling transports us through the novel quickly but with care. This is a book that will make you blush, laugh out loud and maybe even cry. Well worth a read this book could be the next bestseller. It certainly wouldn’t shock me.
So if you’re looking for fun but relatable female characters that are struggling to deal with the world and all its perceptions sometimes, this this is the novel for you. Bold, brilliant this is a book that is perfect to pick up at any time and will likely be on everyone’s reading list this spring and summer. Funny and feminist, The Cows is a sure hit.
Available to buy on Amazon here.