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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Book Review: Diary of an Unsmug Married by Polly James @Mid_WifeCrisis

I don't often use this blog for book reviews, in fact I rarely write book reviews at all. It is not a medium I am particularly good at but I promised the author of this book that I would give it a go so here it is.

Anybody who has read the Mid Wife Crisis blog will be familiar with the characters in this book. It is a fictionalised account of a Labour MP's caseworker and her dysfunctional family, based on the real experiences of the author. Molly Bennett is a pseudonymn of course, as is Polly James, but that does not detract from the world she creates and the many characters she fills it with.

As an elected politician, I can easily identify with the situations that the author describes. None of our clients come close to the rather exagerated caricatures she creates of course, but it is the case that we are often the last resort for many people, who have found no way through supposedly insurmountable problems.

We know too that the threat of physical violence and verbal abuse from frustrated and disenfranchised constituents to elected representives and their staff is very real and most of us take precautions to try and protect against that. Very early on this book deals with such a situation in which Molly is grabbed by the throat and held against the wall by a constituent.

However, please do not let me give the impression that this book is about politics because it is not. It has been compared with Bridget Jones' diary and in some ways that is a fair analogy. But it is much more than that. It is funny and will strike a chord with many people who have no connection with politics at all.

That is because the rather black humour is grounded in our day to day existence. In Molly we have paranoia as a lifestyle choice as she stumbles from one situation to another, wanting a happy and normal life, oblivious to the fact that if she just switched off an over-active imagination then she would see that that is something she already has.

Along the way, we meet Max, her husband who is paying too much attentoin to one particular client and who is suspected of dallying with a nymphomaniac neighbour with standing naked at her window on refuse collection days. And there is Greg, who is Molly's partner in crime at the constituency office and who assists her in her fantasy pursuit of Johnny Hunter, oil tycoon, when he he is not devising ways of getting his own back on the 'usual suspects'.

The usual suspects included Miss Chambers, who appears to have a voice like a foghorn and no off switch, Mr. Beales, who often pops up in the most inconvenient of places, camera in hand and Mr. Meeeeurghn, a convicted murderer living in a homeless hostel, who harbours a grudge against his local Primark store.

And then there is Molly's family: her wayward father who constantly embarrasses her on his many trips to Thailand, her daughter who is at university and seeking part-time employment on her own terms and an accident-prone son, whose idea of fun is to film pranks at the local supermarket.

Add into this the flrtatious Vicky, whose relationship with Andrew Sinclair MP, arouses Molly and Greg's suspicions and leaves them in fear of their jobs and the scene is set for a showdown on a personal and professional level that leaves us wanting more.

I very much enjoyed reading this book. It is well-written, nicely paced and humourous. Definitely one to pack to read at the side of the pool this summer.
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