The Cows, Dawn O’Porter | Book Review

I read this book in just a little over 24 hours, despite absolutely not having the time to do so, which goes to show how much gripped me. It’s a story about three women who are brought together by tragedy and public humiliation, and it’s both laugh-out-loud funny and hide-behind-your-hands cringeworthy.

At the long and short of it, The Cows is about the ways in which the world judges people. When I say people, I mean women in particular, but there are moments of man-judging in there, too. From our sexual activity to our decisions on parenthood, our physical appearance to our career choices, we’re judged from every which way. We all hate to be judged and yet we’re usually guilty of unfairly judging others ourselves. In reality, we should just be letting each other get on with our own shit. That’s the overall message of this novel, and I think it puts it across brilliantly.

It’s not perfect, mind you. Although many aspects are very relatable, at some points the plot pushes the drama to the extreme which I feel is detrimental to its key message.

One of the three protagonists, Tara, shoots to infamy when a video of her in a compromising situation is shared publicly online. Her reputation is suddenly tarnished as the general public turns on her, questioning her morals and her ability to raise a child.

However, as the book draws to a close, we see her instantly turn all that around and become a public hero when she posts a single, simple video on YouTube which “tells her side of the story”. All of a sudden, she has a whole new career and is pegged as a role model by the general public. Oh, and she happens to bring one of the other protagonists away from the brink of a full mental breakdown along the way.

It all felt far too easy considering the sheer scale of their prior downfalls. One second, everything is terrible. The next it’s fine and dandy – better than ever before, in fact, simply because these women chose not to “follow the herd.” It’s a lovely, happy ending, but it’s not an awful lot like real life, and this book’s whole plot hangs off the very real issues we face today. It should feel believably real at every turn.

Now, it wasn’t a perfect happy ending by any means. I won’t spoil it, but there’s a shockingly tragic final moment for one of the three protagonists. However, this tragedy is almost turned around as a positive for Tara, and the idea of a woman benefiting from the tragedy of another is pretty miserable.

The main thing I enjoyed about this book was its humour, and its ability to maintain a sense of humour even when dealing with some very dark, serious, and scary issues. It drives home some brilliant and important points about our internet-focused society with a very healthy dose of laughs, which I think, really, is the best way to go about it.

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