'Bobbie's children never listen to a word she says. Even worse, her mother has a new boyfriend: the notorious child expert Dr Know, who dishes out hard-line advice to the nation. Could parenting classes control her kids - and save her marriage? Andy's wife is due to run a Perfect Parents course at the local school. But when she scarpers, he's left to look after their two teenage
daughters - and face his own childhood demons. Vanessa has found love, second-time round. But one night, six-year-old Sunshine is deposited on her doorstep with a message from Vanessa's estranged daughter, 'Please look after her'. This time she's determined to get it right. Can Bobbie, Andy and Vanessa really learn the secret of raising a happy family?'
If anyone’s in need of some parenting advice its mum-of-two-little-horrors Bobbie – with a husband who’s always working, Bobbie struggles to control her children, and could really do with a hand! When parenting classes start up at her children’s school, Bobbie decides to join one for parents with young children, trying not to be too put off by the fact that the class for parents of teenagers is due to be run by Bobbie’s perfect sister-in-law, Pamela, whose teenage daughters never seem to put a foot wrong.
Joining Bobbie in the class is Vanessa, who finds her granddaughter, Sunshine, left with her one night. As her daughter seems in no hurry to return to her little girl, it looks like Vanessa had better get used to having a child around again.
Andy, husband to Pamela, doesn’t normally have much to do with bringing up his children, he’s usually working. But when Pamela disappears to her mother’s, Andy’s left to run her parenting class. The problem is that a few days in charge at home quickly teaches Andy that his daughters aren’t nearly as well behaved as he thought, and he’s in desperate need of some parenting
My favourite character in the novel was undoubtedly Andy – I loved how shocked he is when he discovers just what his daughters are really like! It was also brilliant when he’s told off by the cleaning lady when he takes over some of her jobs out of pure boredom at being stuck at home all the time.
I felt sorry for Bobbie, who really isn’t coping with her children, but I also found her very frustrating: she keeps getting herself into one mess after another, the woman’s a liability! I thought her relationship with Andy was very interesting, and extremely well written from both of their viewpoints.
The scenes set in the parenting classes themselves were very good – there was a wonderful mixture of problems that every parent can relate to combined with more serious issues, and some very funny anecdotes and parenting
Well, I’m not sure I’d give this book to anyone planning on having children soon: the kids in it are a bunch of rotters! What a horrid lot! No wonder their parents join the classes – it gives them a few hours away from their hideous offspring! However, this makes a fab read for those of us who are parents: it’s funny and poignant, with some nice little twists in the tale, and whilst reading it you can be pretty confident you can’t possibly be doing as
bad a job as some of this lot!
‘Puddleducks Playgroup has been run successfully for several years. Now, with an opportunity to prove herself Gemma Merryfield can't wait to take over running it in September. But the arrival of the new head of the infant school, Joe Balls soon tempers her enjoyment. Ex-banker Joe has been employed to bring the school back up to scratch, and that includes intefering with Gemma and her playgroup. Gemma adores her unruly group of children, and she can even find affection for the parents, but Joe's inteference is the last thing she needs.
Meanwhile, Nancy is in turmoil. Her only son has just started playgroup and her husband has taken a temporary posting to Vietnam. Even before he left, there hadn't been much hope of conceiving her much-wanted second child. And with Danny gone for most of the day, what on earth is she meant to do now? Does she have the strength to find herself again, and maybe make some friends along the way?
Little do any of them realise what a tumultuous term it is going to be...’
Acting supervisor at Puddleducks Playgroup, Gemma Merryfield, can’t wait for term to start so she can set all her plans for fun and learning into action. But it’s not long before her enthusiasm is dampened by the criticisms and interference of Joe Balls, the new, very handsome, teacher at the infant school connected to the pre-school. Joe’s brash manners immediately rub Gemma up the wrong way and relations between the two worsen when Gemma discovers that Joe has rented a room right across the hallway from hers. Can the two learn to get along for the sake of their jobs, or even let down their barriers enough to become more than just friends?
I’m afraid I didn’t find a state pre-school to be a particularly exciting or inspiring setting. A lot of the story takes place actually in Gemma’s workplace, which I personally found a bit boring – I have four small children and do plenty of painting and playdough already without reading about other people doing the same things. However, one advantage of this location was that it gave the heroine ample opportunity to prove how kind and good she was with children.
As for Gemma, she was very sweet and her relationships with the children she works with were pleasant to read about, but she lacked ambition in her life: for example, she appeared perfectly happy to just carry on lodging in a single room with a shared bathroom, which seemed quite unusual for a woman of her age.
Of the secondary characters, Nancy, one of the pre-school mothers, stood out. Her marriage is in trouble, mainly because her husband feeling neglected due to her pouring all her love, and many neuroses, into their little boy. Nancy’s worries were both touching and occasionally very funny - we all know at least one mother like her.
I enjoyed the Fraser’s writing style and found her prose easy to read and enjoyable, although I got a little fed up of the author constantly trying to trick and tease me with red herrings and misunderstandings - to be completely honest, whilst I like the occasional piece of misdirection, I would rather she’d just got to the point.
The pleasant storyline of ‘The Playgroup’ strolled along at a gentle pace and I enjoyed the writing style. However, for me the book seemed to lack a little originality and spark, which I felt was mainly due to the setting used. Having said that, the leads were generally likeable and I was entertained by the variety of characters within the collection of mums. Fans of Polly Williams and Julia Williams should enjoy this and I’ll be very interested to see what Janey Fraser produces next.