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28 October 2013

Review: 'Mutton' by India Knight (2013)

What's a woman to do when she wakes up one morning and finds an enormous freak-wrinkle bisecting her forehead? When she walks past the buildings site and nothing happens? When she catches the eye of a nice young man and is rewarded with a kind, patient, for-granny smile?
Clara Hutt, 46, feels herself to be in her absolute prime. She is chipper. Her sap is rising mightily, as it happens. But then her friend Gaby comes back from California and moves in with her. Gaby is no stranger to Los Angeles's more invasive cosmetic procedures. She may be pushing 50 but she looks 35. And Clara wonders: should she follow suit? A little Botox, a little filler, a little nip, a little tuck . . . but where to stop? And is nostril-waxing ever a good idea

Unexpectedly, I received a review copy of ‘Mutton’, written by India Knight, which immediately caught my eye with its colourful cover. I had heard of India Knight before, and knew she is quite well-known as a journalist and author in the UK, but I hadn’t read any of her work before. I was quite curious to read ‘Mutton’, especially after finding lots of mixed reviews online. It seems people either loved or hated it, and I wondered in which category I would eventually end up in.
‘Mutton’ is a novel told from the perspective of forty-something Clara Hutt, a woman in her prime who, at first, doesn’t seem to have any trouble with ageing. Until she notices that the builders around the corner aren’t whistling at her anymore. Until her childhood best friend Gaby comes to live with her, who has lived in LA, started her own very successful yoga business, and looks like she’s closer to thirty than fifty. Clara suddenly finds herself wondering whether she should perhaps start using botox, care more about her appearance, long to stay ‘forever young’ for as long as possible... Or is ageing perhaps not as bad as modern-day society manages to make it look?

Clara, who is apparently based on India Knight herself, is an honest and blunt forty-something, whose thoughts pave the main path in this novel. Clara speaks her mind, which results in both amusing and funny situations, but unfortunately also in long pieces of prose that seem to go on without any specific meaning to them. The plot is often taken over by these long monologues, which I personally thought was a waste, because I actually really liked the plot. I enjoyed reading about Clara and Gaby’s friendship, family events such as Clara’s daughter’s birthday party, and the relationship between Jack (Clara’s son) and his girlfriend Sky. ‘Mutton’ has a charming mix of characters at its core, and I wish I could have found out more about them, instead of simply Clara’s thoughts.
‘Mutton’ focuses on an important contemporary theme: the discussion of the importance of appearance and the influence other people and the modern-day society have on this. India Knight focuses on the message that we should all feel comfortable in our own skin and shouldn’t simply change because of others or what society might expect of people. At the end of the day, ageing is unavoidable, and it’s up to every single individual to deal with this in their own way. I think this is a fascinating topic, and one that speaks to all women. I’m a twenty-something, but didn’t really feel like there was too much of an age-gap between Clara and myself, because the novel deals with a topic that is on the minds of almost all modern-day women, I think.
‘Mutton’ is a contemporary, at times amusing, read with a great mix of characters and a distinctive voice at its core. All the mixed reviews I’ve read came from people who either loved or hated this novel. Well, if I’m honest, I think I’m somewhere in the middle: I didn’t love it, but because of some elements (a great mix of characters, a fascinating plotline hidden underneath it all), I definitely didn’t hate it either.

1 comment:

  1. Jody, this is on my tbr so only skimmed your review. Didn't want to be influenced ... although I did read your summary! Wonder what I will think.

    Great review (as always).