3 May 2013

Book Review: The Antenatal Group by Amy Bratley

"Seven months pregnant, Mel is dumped by her partner and is suddenly facing parenthood alone. But at her antenatal class, she meets a group of women who quickly become invaluable friends in the terrifying new world of birth and babies . . . Katy – rich, successful and with the dream husband – has her delivery planned to perfection. But she soon realizes that nature doesn’t always follow suit. Lexi, loud and confident, is coping well on her own. Until the only man she has ever loved reappears at the most unexpected moment. Rebecca is the youngest of the group – not long out of her teens, in fact –but she’s determined to hold onto her dreams, even without her family’s support. Erin already seems to be an expert on babies, but her quiet nature hides a secret tragedy. When you’re contemplating pain relief, birth positions and sleepless nights you really need a good friend – or four."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy The Antenatal Group as a paperback or an eBook now.

I love books about babies and pregnancy and things like that, as a mum I love to relate to what I'm reading, and so when I found out that Amy Bratley's new book was about just that, I was really excited to read it. When the first cover was published, it was a gorgeous bright blue, but the published version is more cream based which is a shame, but I was undeterred and decided to get stuck in and read the whole thing. Now I've finished it, I can say this is Amy Bratley's best book to date, with a cast of likeable and relatable characters, and a story to give you hope and make you smile and nod along in recognition too!

There's nothing like an antenatal class to bring women together, and that's certainly the case for Mel, Katy, Lexi, Erin and Rebecca. When Mel finds herself suddenly single and heavily pregnant, she's devastated and scared of what the future holds, and decides to stick with the class for some moral support from the other women. There's Lexi, a woman who has gone into pregnancy knowingly solo and is happy and content with her lot, but when a surprise face from the past makes a reappearance, she's shocked to her core. Erin seems like she might know a thing or two about babies and pregnancy, but is very quiet and withdrawn at the class, and the women are sure she is hiding something. Katy loves her job, works very hard, and has the perfect marriage, and she's sure that her pregnancy, delivery and motherhood will follow suit with her perfect life. But when it doesn't go to plan, will Katy be able to cope? Finally, there's the young mum Rebecca, engaged to her musician fiance and looking forward to her future as a mum - but why is Rebecca not speaking to her family? Find out more about the women of the Antenatal Group...

As you can see, there's quite a few characters in the book, but really it focuses on these 5 women, and some of their respective partners too but that's it, so it's easy to follow and read. The book alternates between who it follows, coming together for the group and then splitting off to follow each one in turn so we get to know more about them. I liked Bratley's writing style - she's clearly writing from experience about much of the book, and you can see she understands the neurotic nature of a new mother - some scenes with the new mums are quite funny, always assuming the worst as I'm sure many mums reading this will agree to! Bratley manages to balance all of the stories very easily, and her third person story-telling works perfectly for the book, and it was a really relaxing read that I could pick up when I was tired of an evening and just enjoy reading.

All of the characters were great, and I liked that there were lots of different circumstances covered, so I am sure there is something in there for most people to relate to as they are reading. I liked how Bratley covered some quite interesting issues in the book as well, such as sperm donation, post-natal depression/ post-traumatic stress disorder, and single motherhood. You can really feel for these characters, each of them has something for you to care about or feel sympathetic for, and I liked that. I couldn't say I really had a favourite, they were all great but I was particularly taken with Lexi's and Katy's stories - they were especially well written and although I really disliked Katy at first, you soon see another side to her and I felt very sorry for her and what she was dealing with, Bratley wrote it incredibly well and realistically too. Rebecca's story was an interesting one too, and shows you the mistakes you can make in your youth, and how you can misjudge your parents in the heat of the moment, I actually found her story very emotional to read.

I read this book in just a couple of days - well, evenings - because I couldn't put it down and found myself really wanting to know what was going to happen with each of these women as they eventually gave birth and embarked on motherhood. Bratley leaves enough time in the book to deal with the first part of their motherhood too, so you really go through the whole experience with these women, and I found it a brilliant read. I am sure a lot of mum's reading this will find things in common with several of these characters, but it's an enjoyable read for anyone who likes extremely well-written and heartfelt chick lit. I find Bratley's writing style extremely easy to read, and it was such an enjoyable read. I loved the book, I loved the things it covered and I really loved its characters - what more can you ask for?!

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