Looking back at my goal setting, I think I’ve been too ambitious in certain things (understatement of the year!) For example, goal 1 is about reminding myself to read one novel every 2 weeks. Fair enough, sounds doable. However, the over-ambitious (and, in retrospect, funny) bit has to do with some of the books I’ve listed for myself as ‘suggested readings’: Dostoevsky, Bronte, Henry James, Flaubert… the list goes on, and sounds a bit like a ‘1001 books you must read before you die’ kind of thing (and we all know the problems with such lists. As William Grimes recently wrote in the New York Times, ‘upon reaching the last page of title No. 1,001… death might come as a relief’).
In any case, I happily and innocently started my ‘one novel in two weeks’ quest, and as I had written here 2 weeks ago, my initial plan was not that ambitious: I would be starting with Nicola Barker’s ‘Clear: A transparent novel’. Well. I struggled and struggled for a few days, trying to be a good, organized reader. The result? A few days later ‘Clear’ ended up in my ‘books to give away’ pile, and I happily turned to a really easy going, fun, laugh-out-loud novel: ‘Confessions of a bad mother’ by Stephanie Calman.
This is actually not strictly a novel- it’s a novel-like, non-fiction account of the author’s experiences as a new mother, starting from her pregnancies and ending when her 2 children are about 7 and 6 years old. What’s enjoyable & refreshing about this book is the author’s honesty & openness about her ‘shortcomings’ as a parent. In a way, this books sticks the finger to those smug, holier than though ‘perfect mothers’ who go on and on about how their choices are the best possible for them, for their children, and for the world at large. In reality, Calman seems like a perfectly normal, everyday, good enough mother to me, with various ‘shortcomings’ which in my opinion are not really shortcomings but a human being being a human being. The point she’s making is that there is no such thing as a perfect, ‘good mother’ who always enjoys every minute of parenthood, and that those who would have us believe such a species exists are not telling it like it is, and are adding unneeded pressure to mothers (or mothers-to-be, like me!)
Anyway. In the end, I don’t regret having read this book and not the award-winning ‘Clear’. Maybe at some point in the near future I’ll take a deep breath and be ready for Dostoevsky… and when that moment comes, I’ll let you know 🙂
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