I read an extract of Dawn O’Porter’s The Cows over on The Pool and promptly downloaded it onto my Kindle and continued reading, I was that hooked. I had initially planned to read this on the plane to Canada next week, but O’Porter’s writing was so compelling, I just couldn’t stop myself- and I now find myself frantically trying to find a replacement.
Firstly, the blurb does not do this book justice. Ostensibly it follows the lives of single mother and documentary maker Tara, grieving PA Stella, and lifestyle blogger Cam. Each character has a unique voice, experience some extraordinary events, and is somehow set apart from others- be it their friends and family, their colleagues, or even other women. To coin the hashtag associated with the book, these women don’t follow the herd. However, there’s way more to it than that. The novel is entirely character driven- and each narrative is equally captivating. I’ve read many novels with multiple narrations and found myself skipping sections due to weaker storylines, but that was not the case here, and O’Porter’s development of each character and their story is superb. I struggle to pick a favourite, but I would suggest that readers expect the unexpected. O’Porter is very adept at completely turning things on their head.
There are some utterly ridiculous and laugh-outloud moments (I won’t give spoilers, but expect the term Walthamstow Wank Woman to appear a lot!), but also some moments which will undoubtedly tug on your heart-strings, but also incite some feminist rage. O’Porter provides some uncanny extracts of articles from the Daily Mail’s website and sexist tweets, not to mention trolling emails and Facebook messages to boot. O’Porter takes on a host of issues which affect women today through her characters and the unbelievable circumstances which eventually tie them together, tackling female sexuality, motherhood, trolling, and breast cancer- to name but a few. Again, the blurb doesn’t do The Cows justice.
It’s been a long time since a contemporary fiction author or book has really spoken to me. Perhaps, more accurately, it’s a long time since I’ve felt that a writer or their work has in some way represented me and the world I live in- O’Porter and The Cows accomplish this. Social media usage, the debates about sexuality, feminism, motherhood…it’s all relevant, ongoing and important conversations.
Try the extracts, or just go buy the book. Either way, as far as reading The Cows is concerned, this is once instance where you should follow the herd.