Review: 'A Year in the Life of a Playground Mother' by Christie Barlow (2015)
Fed up with the playground mafia at her children’s school, Rachel Young is desperate for a change.
With her family and various pets in tow, a picture-perfect village in the countryside beckons. There, Rachel’s children will be able to keep chickens and skip through fields and she’ll bid farewell to the botoxed, fake-Gucci wearing Mumzillas forever.
But at the new school the mums are even worse, and before long, Rachel finds herself contending with a motley crew including Mrs High School Musical, The International Sex God and The Frisky Pensioner.
While the children are practicing their sums and perfecting their reading, Rachel is learning some harsh lessons on the other side of the school gates, and ruffling plenty of feathers along the way…
Bookouture is one of my favourite publishers, and they are also the ones that introduced me to author Christie Barlow last year. I thoroughly enjoyed her novel 'Kitty's Countryside Dream' (click here to read my review) and also really liked her Christmas-themed release 'Lizzie's Christmas Escape', which I read at the end of last year. I got a review copy of 'Misadventures of a Playground Mother', one of her other books, but quickly realised this is actually the sequel to 'A Year in the Life of a Playground Mother' and whenever possible I definitely prefer to start at the beginning of a series. So, I got a copy of the first instalment and was curious to give it a go!
Rachel Young and her family are on the verge of a new adventure as Rachel and her husband decide to move the whole family to the idyllic English countryside. With the ideas of rolling green hills and lovely small villages in her head, Rachel can’t wait for the move to finally happen. One of the things she particularly can’t wait to leave behind is the playground mafia; the gossiping mums at the school gates who seem to judge her with every blink of an eye. No need to say Rachel is quite surprised when she discovers the playground politics in the countryside might be even worse than in the city. Without even wanting to, she gets mixed up in all of it and once you’re in, it’s quite difficult to manage to find your way out again, especially without obtaining any damage…
School gate politics has been quite a popular topic to write about for several years now. It’s a topic I don’t have any personal experience with since I don’t have any children (yet), but it’s been a topic that caught my interest and over the years I’ve read several books focusing on this subject. I was curious to see where this particular one would go and what author Christie Barlow would do with the story. The focus was mainly on protagonist Rachel; and where I was expecting her four children and husband Matt to also take on a particular role in the storyline, they hardly made an appearance, to my personal surprise. The spotlight was really on Rachel and some of the other mums in the school playground, such as Penelope, which of course shed some light on that particular side of school ground politics and not so much on the home/family aspect of it all.
While I liked the setting and basic plotline of this novel, and it is definitely witty and amusing in places, I couldn’t help but miss something while reading it. I can’t really specify what it is exactly, but I just didn’t connect with any of the characters and was constantly waiting for the storyline to really grab me, but it just didn’t. I’m not saying I really didn’t enjoy this read, because I did, but I do think I was somehow expecting more, also based on the other Christie Barlow novels I’ve read and really liked. So, on the whole, ‘A Year in the Life of a Playground Mother’ was not exactly the read I was hoping it would be, but it is still a witty and enjoyable take on school ground politics, and I am curious to see whether the sequel to this book is perhaps more up my street!