12 October 2012

Book Review: The School Gates by Nicola May

"At 3.10pm every weekday, parents gather at Featherstone Primary in Denbury to collect their children. 

For a special few, the friendships forged at the school gates will see them through lives filled with drama, secrets and sorrows. When Yummy Mummy Alana reveals the identity of her love-child's father, she doesn't expect the consequences to be quite so extreme. Ex Czech au-pair Earth Mummy Dana finds happiness in her secret sideline, but really all she longs for is another child. Slummy Mummy Mo's wife-beating husband leads her down a path she never thought possible, and Supper Mummy Joan has to cope when life deals her a devastating blow. 

And what of Gay Daddy Gordon? Will he be able to juggle parenthood and cope with his broken heart at the same time? 

Four very different mothers. One adorable dad. And the intertwining trials and tribulations that a year at the primary school gates brings"

Rating: 4/5

Nicola May is one of the few self-published authors I choose to read, and there's a reason for that. Nicola is constantly striving for publicity, for the best look for her books and to get her work out there as well. I love that Nicola's covers are very professional too and don't look like they've been done using a hideous amount of clip art, which I have seen before and trust me, these look like books you'd expect to come from a big publishing house name. This is the third of Nicola's books I have to read, with both of her previous novels being very enjoyable, so I was hoping for another book I could get stuck into and really enjoy, and luckily Nicola certainly delivered on that front once again.

The book is about a cast of parents whose children all happen to attend the same school, and what goes on in their lives. It's quite a big cast of characters within the book, and I have to say at first I did find the amount of them a little over-whelming and hard to keep track of, especially as the story flits so quickly back and forth between them all. There's Alana, single mum to daughter Eliska who is hiding a big secret about the father of her daughter, and is scared that it's going to get out and make her life worse. Ex Czech au pair Dana thought she'd found her prince, but her marriage isn't all it's cracked up to be and she's struggling to find happiness. Gordon has a broken heart but is daddy to young twin girls and has to juggle a busy career with raising his girls, and finally there's Joan and Mo, 2 down-trodden mums who are dealing with the trials and tribulations of life as a mum and a wife, but with secrets going on behind closed doors.

As you can see just from that list, there's quite a few characters to be going on with. May starts by introducing us to each of the characters in turn with a short chapter, allowing us to get to know a bit more about them and their story, but the introductions are quite short and after a while, I kept muddling a few of the characters up and forgetting which storyline belonged to who. After a little bit of flicking back and forth, I got the hang of them and found it quite easy after that, and enjoyed the ways which May managed to weave them altogether, even though you wouldn't expect some of them to be socialising with each other due to their circumstances and preconceptions about each other!

May covers some quite serious issues in the book, from death and consequent adoption of children, to single parenthood, IVF, miscarriage and domestic abuse amongst others, yet I didn't find the book hard to read at all. In fact, I loved that it got stuck in with these areas, and it was made all the more realistic because you could really believe these characters were going through these things, and as we all do, hide the pain at the school gates and plaster a smile on our face. I particularly felt for Dana and Mo in the book, two women who were once happy but through various ways find themselves in terrible positions, and your heart really goes out to them. I do have to say May writes the scenes with children especially well too, so often I've read books with children where I think the author hasn't got a clue about how children speak or react yet I was really impressed with May's efforts in this book.

I really enjoyed The School Gates and found it to be a very entertaining read that doesn't shy away from the more serious side of life behind closed doors of the parents involved. I have to say I was pleased that that the bad language I've encountered in Nicola's previous books wasn't really there this time around, and was no more the worse for it (unless she had my copy specially doctored haha!!). With a cast of likeable and realistic characters, the book takes you on a journey along with these people battling their woes and sadnesses, and also smiling a fair bit too. May carries all of these characters easily, balancing the storylines and keeping her narrative voice in the third person which worked so well for the multiple people involved in the story. Do pick up a copy of The School Gates, you won't be left disappointed.

You can buy The School Gates as a paperback or an eBook now.

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