Having heard about this book via the oracle of Twitter I was very excited when asked to read and review the book as part of the blog tour. Having a toddler myself I was looking forward to reading a book whose tagline is “Never has marriage, motherhood and being a working mum been so seriously funny.”
The book opens with Cassie and Jonathan having just become parents to Sophie and feeling completely lost and bewildered in the new area of life they find themselves in. Sophie, in particular has a very trying start to parenthood thanks to an email slip up by Jonathan which is hilarious and things don’t get any easier for Cassie as she eventually returns to work part time as a lawyer who is asked to advice a funeral home on employment law regarding an employee who sees ghosts at work. To add to all this, Cassie’s first love re-appears into her life just when Cassie is trying to decide whether or not she has made a big mistake.
This is a truly fantastic read. I felt as if the author had read all my secret thoughts I’ve had since becoming a mum and I absolutely adored Cassie, she is a real, flawed woman who is just trying to readjust after the seismic effect that having a child has had on her marriage, her career and herself as a person. There is everything in this book, it will make you laugh, make you cry and make you hug your loved ones that little bit tighter. I think this book should be handed to all new parents to show them that although it may seem that everyone is coping better than you, everyone is coping with their own individual struggles.
The narrative voice of the novel was so deceptively simple which draws the reader into Cassie’s emotional life but what I also enjoyed was that Jonathan’s experience was well drawn too and I loved the portrayal of Shona and Paul’s experience of parenthood where Paul ends up taking the majority of the childcare over and how his experience was a mirror of Cassie’s.
I can’t recommend this beautiful, funny and true elegy to the painful and joyful journey that is parenthood enough and I am eager to read Lucy’s next novel.
I’d been awake for eighty-six hours when I realised what my husband had done. We’d just got home from the hospital and he was upstairs holding Sophie so that I could make myself a cup of tea and possibly have a nap.
But by the time I’d inched my way to the kitchen, tea-making seemed too daunting a task – something I’d been used to doing in a previous life, but not now. From the fridge magnets and the Isle of Skye tea towel to the strand of spaghetti dried onto the hob, everything seemed familiar but distant, as though I’d returned to a house I’d lived in a long time ago.
My eye caught the laptop, open on the kitchen table. People were bound to have heard about the birth by now – maybe I should check my emails. Perhaps some words of congratulation would flick a switch, jump-start me, and shake me out of this jittery, twilight world.
To my surprise, I had a hundred and four unread emails, all with identical subject descriptions. I opened up my sent box, a terrible suspicion forming in my mind. The offending communication was right there at the top.
Subject: 48 Stitches Later!
She has arrived! Sophie Louise Carlisle, a bouncing baby girl 7lb 5oz. Cassie’s waters broke on Monday afternoon (at work!) and we rushed up to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in a taxi (taxi driver NOT happy). However, she wasn’t dilated enough, so we were sent home. Contractions started overnight, and when we went back the next morning, we were rushed up to the delivery suite where the midwife decided . . .
Unable to read any more, I opened the attachment. It was a photograph of my top half, naked and white against hospital sheets. I was frowning in concentration as I tried to coax my nipple into Sophie’s mouth.
It had been sent to every name in my contacts list, including the following recipients:
1. David Galbraith, Senior Partner, Everfield Chase, London office. He’d been the lawyer acting on the other side of a multi-million pound joint venture called Project Vertigo. I’d been advising on transfer of employment issues and for some reason got involved in some late-night emailing from my home computer.
2. Everyone else from Everfield Chase who had ever worked on Project Vertigo. This ran to dozens of people, including: Nadeem Madaan (employment law), Bill Harkness (banking), Julie MacDonald (tax), Benjamin Trent (property), and Ashley Green (night typing secretary).
3. Doreen King of HM Revenue & Customs – provider of guidance in relation to a tax issue that had arisen in another corporate transaction.
4. Elliot McCabe, Manager of Braid Hills Funeral Home – correspondence concerning Great Auntie Judith’s funeral.
5. Renato Di Rollo, Reservations desk, Hotel San Romano. Holiday booking.
6. Malkie Hamilton. Ex-boyfriend. Oh my God.
He eventually appeared, carrying Sophie snug against him on one forearm, supporting her head in his palm.
‘Is it time for your paracetamol?’ he asked with a bright smile.
‘What . . . is this?’ I whispered, my hand pointing somewhere in the direction of the screen. The effort of twisting my head to look up at him had dissolved my vision into a field of black swirls.
‘What? Let me see.’ He peered in closer. ‘It’s the email I wrote in the hospital – remember, the one I showed you?’
‘What? I’ve never seen this before in my life!’
He paused for a moment, frowning while he considered his response. ‘Well, maybe you were a bit . . . out of it . . . at the time . . .’
Scenes from the birth, fragmented and disconnected, surfaced in my mind: Jonathan fiddling with his BlackBerry during the pushing stage, at around the point where I’d reached a calm acceptance that I would never get out of that room alive; Jonathan taking pictures as the midwife hauled a purple, blood-stained Sophie onto my chest for skin-to-skin contact; Jonathan waving the BlackBerry in my face just as the haemorrhaging started . . .
‘You needn’t look like that, Cassie. You said it was okay.’
‘I might very well have done. But I was not of sound mind at the time.’
This lawyerly pronouncement didn’t seem to make much of an impression on him. He merely bent his head and kissed Sophie’s nose six times. Her arms flew out in a startle reflex. It occurred to me that we’d have to take off the hospital bracelet that still encircled her thin, translucent wrist; she was ours now. I could scarcely believe they’d let us take her home.
‘And anyway.’ I glared at Jonathan again. ‘Then you decided to email it to half the lawyers in the UK?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘You’ve managed to send it to all my contacts, which seems to include everybody I’ve ever sent an email to since I got this account.’
He was quiet for a moment, taking this in. ‘Hmmm. You’ll need to change your default settings.’
‘So it’s my fault now?’ Rage was bubbling up in the pit of my stomach, but somehow it wasn’t reaching as far as my voice, or the part of my brain that formed words. I sat back with a big shuddering sigh.
‘Don’t you think you might be overreacting? And besides,’ he said, narrowing his eyes, ‘you’re not supposed to do work emails from a personal email account. You know that, Cassie.’
‘There were other people on that list too.’ I scanned through it again. ‘The damp proofing guy, the fish deliverer . . . people who are now going to think I’m mad.’
‘So? I hardly think that matters. If you like, I’ll send out another email saying it was my fault, and that it wasn’t intended to reach them.’
Before I could reply, the doorbell rang, and Jonathan rushed off to answer it. He came back beaming, an enormous bouquet of flowers in his non-Sophie arm.
The cellophane screeched as I tore off the card, making Sophie startle again.
‘Congratulations! With best wishes from the Joint Ventures Team at Everfield Chase.’
With a squeal, I tossed the bouquet onto the table. ‘For God’s sake! It’s from bloody Everfield Chase!’
Jonathan seemed delighted. ‘You see, Cassie, everyone is going to be happy for you. I hope there were some clients on the list too. It’s quite an original marketing tool – you’ll certainly stand out in their memories, look at it that way.’
‘Yes, I should think the mental image of their employment lawyer naked and breastfeeding in the delivery room will be quite hard to erase.’
‘I’m sorry, Cassie-Lassie.’ He came over and folded me into a hug with his spare arm. I detached myself and took Sophie from him – a process that took several moments as I eased my hands around her back, working my fingers upwards to support the back of her head. She felt more like a kitten than a baby; a pliant bag of bones. She curled into an upright position against me, nose nodding into my shoulder as she tried to move her head, sensing milk nearby. I stroked the nape of her neck with one finger, lost in the utter softness of her skin.
‘Our very own joint venture, Cassie,’ said Jonathan, curling his palm around the back of Sophie’s head, his eyes looking moist.
And although it was a terrible line, it did make me smile. Because it was his way of saying that Sophie had been born out of our love, because of our love, and would grow up in our love like a little bud unfurling its petals towards the sun.
About the Author
Lucy Lawrie was born in Edinburgh, and gained an honours degree in English Literature from Durham University before going on to study law. She worked as a lawyer in Edinburgh for several years, specialising in Employment and Pensions law. When Lucy was on maternity leave with her first baby, she unearthed a primary two homework book in which she’d stated, in very wobbly handwriting: ‘I want to be an AUTHOR when I grow up.’ To appease her six-year old self, she began writing her first novel.
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