‘At 3.10pm every weekday, parents gather at Featherstone Primary in Denbury to collect their children. For a special few, the friendships forged at the school gates will see them through lives filled with drama, secrets and sorrows. When Yummy Mummy Alana reveals the identity of her love-child's father, she doesn't expect the consequences to be quite so extreme.
Ex Czech au-pair Earth Mummy Dana finds happiness in
her secret sideline, but really all she longs for is another child. Slummy Mummy Mo's wife-beating husband leads her down a path she never thought possible, and
Supper Mummy Joan has to cope when life deals her a devastating blow. And what of Gay Daddy Gordon? Will he be able to juggle parenthood and cope with his broken heart at the same time?
Four very different mothers. One adorable dad. And the intertwining trials and
tribulations that a year at the primary school gates brings.’
‘The School Gates’ follows five parents of children attending their local school, Featherstone Primary, in Denbury. First is single working mum Alana, who’s unsure of how to deal with the consequences when the secret of who the father of her little girl is finally gets out. Next is Dana, a stay-at-home mum who’s desperate to earn her own money and not be a glorified au-pair to her husband and son. Then there’s Mum of four Joan, who has a shock in store for her, but needs to remain strong to help support her friend Mo, who’s alcoholic husband is making her and her daughter’s life a misery. Lastly, there’s Gordon, a gay dad devastated when his partner leaves him; can he manage his twin daughters by himself?
As the school year progresses, the parents become closer as they make often unexpected friends and deal with what life has thrown them all as best they can.
From reading the blurb to this novel, I thought it would be right up my street, and I was looking forward to it. When I settled down into the story I found that I enjoyed following the lives of May’s characters, but that the novel was a little on the short side for the moment of action and people packed into it! I would have liked more depth to the storylines, particularly when it came to Mo and her husband, a relationship that I found very interesting. My favourite of the protagonists was undoubtedly Gordon, who was just lovely; I was really routing for a happy ending for him.
What I relished about this story was that the characters were believable, yet entertaining; I especially liked how Joan and Mo helped each other out whenever they could. Having said this though, I was a bit disappointed by something that Joan does, which was so out of character that it didn’t ring
true at all.
Unfortunately, there were a couple of little inaccuracies in the novel, Joan’s baby for example is 11 months old on one page and 10 months old a couple of pages later. There were also several places where the book was quite poorly formatted and line spaces weren’t correct: this could get quite confusing as there were sometimes spaces missing when the break would have been indicating a change in character being followed. There was also some pretty strong language littered throughout the book, which was unexpected and
surprised me a little. I didn’t feel that it was always necessary and it may offend some readers.
‘The School Gates’ was quite a quick read with some very engaging characters, whom I liked following. May is clearly a good storyteller and is very good at keeping excellent pace going throughout her books, which keeps the
action going and makes it hard to put her writing down. Some better editing and formatting would have made this book even more enjoyable.
3 and a half stars
“Ruby Matthews has a plan. Twelve jobs in twelve months, until she finds the one of her dreams… After an unexpected redundancy, Ruby begins to question her priorities. Inspired by a quote from Kahlil Gibran about loving your work, she launches her mission to find the ideal job. Her year of gainful (and sometimes painful!) employment includes nannying for clients in the South of France; dealing with embarrassing ailments in a Harley Street Clinic; waiting tables in a buzzy Soho cafe; and meeting the celebs of years gone by in a home for retired actors. And even though love is no longer top of her list, relationships just seem to start happening along the way – which sees her handing out some P45s of her own! But will any of the jobs, or men she meets, see her dreams come true? Or will Ruby just end up back where she started?”
Ruby Matthews is devastated to lose her well-paid marketing job just before Christmas, and makes a New Year’s Resolution to change her life by doing a different job every month for the next twelve months. Hopefully by the end of the year she’ll know what she really wants to do.
Ruby tries a wide variety of jobs, and while she’s certainly happy to leave some, she's inspired and learns from each. She masquerades as a fortune-teller, nannies in the south of France and works in a home for retired actors; it’s said that variety is the spice of life, but will it bring Ruby lasting happiness?
What a fun read this was! Our heroine was natural and entertaining to read about, her work ethics were admirable - she’d do pretty much any job she was offered and wasn’t afraid to try new things. I liked that she was determined not to fall behind with her mortgage payments but didn’t want to end up in another uninspiring career. It was a relief when, about midway through the novel, Ruby stopped fancying what seemed to be every man she came into contact with. Her behaviour was verging on becoming a little bit desperate which took away somewhat from the likeability of her character!
Ruby certainly met a colourful cast during her escapades. My favourite was undoubtedly Tony, her half deaf co-worker from a Harley Street sexual health clinic: he was so brilliantly inappropriate it was hilarious. Ruby’s grumpy cat Patrick also gave me lots to giggle about.
By contrast, I’m afraid I wasn’t overly enamoured with Ruby’s neighbour and love interest ‘Gorgeous George’: he was a little rough and ready for my liking and seemed too ordinary and uninspiring for Ruby in my opinion.
“Working It Out” had an original storyline, with plenty of scope for fun and adventure, which the author made full use of in Ruby’s escapades. The characterisation was superb and really made the tale stand out for me. May managed to make the most out of every single one of the characters in this book; they were all individual, entertaining and drew me further into the story.
I was concerned that the whole twelve jobs in a year idea would result in the plot feeling very bitty and broken up, but actually it worked well and kept the tale fresh and interesting throughout. The novel was actually a surprisingly quick read, possibly because its pace was so well maintained with a lot going on in the storyline.
“Working It Out” is a self-published book with a very professional finish; I was particularly impressed by its eye-catching cover. The story is a lovely mixture of both the comic and the poignant, and really deserves to reach as wide an audience as possible.
3 and a half stars