When Sophie Bennett moves from a quiet sleepy suburb of Toronto to glitzy west London, she doesn’t know where she has landed: Venus or Mars. Her three-year-old daughter Kaya attends Cherry Blossoms, the most exclusive nursery in London, where Sophie finds herself adrift in a sea of Alpha Mums. These mothers are glamorous, gorgeous, competitive and super rich, especially Kelly, the blonde, beautiful and bitchy class rep.
Struggling to fit in and feeling increasingly isolated, Sophie starts ‘The Beta Mum’, an anonymous blog describing her struggles with the Alpha Mums. But when her blog goes viral, she risks ruining everything for herself and her daughter. How long will it be until they discover her true identity? Is her marriage strong enough to survive one of her follower’s advances? And will she ever fit in with the Alpha Mums?
I really enjoyed this book and raced through it reading it in one day. It was certainly a bit of light relief after some of the books I’ve read lately!
A Canadian couple move to a very affluent part of London when the husband is relocated to take over an important and profitable project and they manage, through a combination of social machinations and good luck, to have their three year old daughter Kaya enrolled into a very exclusive nursery school.
The other pupils are the offspring of the super-rich and famous and while other mothers reading the book might recognise that awful feeling of inadequacy and fear of social exclusion that can take place outside the gates of any school the length and breadth of the country, with so much more at stake for the mothers at the gates of Cherry Blossom nursery those fears and pressures seem to be intensified. The competition is intense between them all and they constantly strive to outdo each other with parties, holidays and extra tutoring for their tiny children.
Sophie, Kaya’s mother, does not wear the latest designer clothes or shoes to drop off her daughter or pick her up, she’s an outdoor girl happier wearing a pair of jeans and converse sneakers. Missing her best friend back in Canada and with her husband Michael busy with his new high-pressured job she tries hard to befriend the other mothers but is usually ignored or sneered at.
Through despair and loneliness Sophie sets up an online blog, referring to herself as The Beta Mum (as opposed to the Alpha Mum – get it?) she writes daily gossipy, witty and rather bitchy updates about the other mothers, in particular designer clad Kelly, The Queen Bee and organiser of school events who barely even acknowledges Sophie’s existence.
Things turn decidedly complicated when the other mothers get wind of the blog and speculate as to who exactly The Beta Mum could be. With possible expulsion from Cherry Blossoms and the inevitable social exclusion and ire from the Alpha Mums, the stakes are high and Sophie must not be found out. Descriptive and well written and I’ll look forward to more from this author.
I was kindly given an ARC copy of the book that I chose to review.
Isabella Davidson is the author of the popular blog ‘Notting Hill Yummy Mummy’, which chronicles the entertaining lives of west London residents. Through the blog, she has written features for ‘The Times’, ‘The Saturday Times Magazine’, ‘Corner’ magazine, and has been interviewed by ‘Financial Times’, ‘Harper’s Bazaar’, ‘The Spectator’, ‘The Times’ and many more. She started ‘The Beta Mum’ during the six-month Faber Academy novel writing course. Prior to starting her writing career, she worked for a Nobel Prize-winning humanitarian organisation and as a doctor for the National Health Service. She grew up on four different continents before settling down in London fifteen years ago. She currently lives in west London with her husband and their two small children.
*A footnote to this review. I finished reading this on the day of the terribly tragic Grenfell Tower disaster. Grenfell Tower is in the same borough of Kensington as the setting for this fictional account, albeit in North Kensington where the poorer members of the borough were living in unsafe social housing.
Without getting too political, the book illustrates the almost obscene amount of money wasted on superficial needs and wants of some of the rich as opposed to the very real needs of the poor living in the same borough.