Book Review: The Cows By Dawn O’Porter
I love Dawn O’Porter’s outlook on life and attitude towards creativity. “Just bloody do it” is her motto. Or “just bloody wear it” if she’s talking about vintage clothes. But today I want to talk about her latest book, The Cows.
Like most aspiring young writers, back in the day I used to read Dawn’s Stylist column religiously, her old WordPress blog where she wrote spontaneously about her daily bonkers antics, her tweets where she’d tell it exactly like it is and now her current GLAMOUR column where she dishes out brilliant advice and opinion pieces. I love Dawn. She’s not afraid to ask awkward questions, own up to mistakes or get to the heart of an issue, much like her documentaries of the noughties, you could say. Dawn’s writing has always reminded me of a fun big sister type who writes to spread messages and help others online. Comforting, outspoken, fun and most of all: honest. I’ve definitely had moments of WWDD (What Would Dawn Do?), and since interviewing her for my podcast where we sat on a bed and chinwagged for an hour, I fell in love with her even more. That episode with Dawn is one my most popular episodes and so many people have emailed me to tell me they’ve listened to it more than once. I totally get why. It’s one of my favourites, too.
SO, it comes as no surprise that I was very excited to get my hands on her first book for adults The Cows. Dawn’s written other (brilliant) young adult books, but this one is undoubtedly different. Firstly, it’s chunkier (it’s a TOME) and it’s got more explicitly adult themes to it. I was lucky enough to be sent an early copy (I’m holding a yellow proof copy in the picture above, the actual cover is in the picture below) which made me feel VERY special because I felt like I had to keep a secret whilst reading it.
If you’ve read any of Dawn’s work you’ll know she doesn’t hold back and her voice is distinct, unique and FUNNY. So I expected her book to be bold, outspoken and to touch on themes close to her heart, and this book did not disappoint. So I wanted to write a list of my favourite things in the book, and reasons you should go out and buy it. See below:
So, here are 7 reasons you should read this book:
1. The main characters are sexually-liberated feminists
Tara, Cam and Stella are all totally different women with different lifestyles but they are all unapologetically feminist in the way they live their lives. Tara works for a TV company and takes NO bullshit from sexist co-workers, Cam blogs about wanting to remain childless and proud, and Stella isn’t afraid to stand up for herself, especially to the men in her life. I love how opinionated each of the characters are, especially in regards to dating, sex, parenthood and their career.
2. It’s hilariously tongue-in-cheek, especially about blogging
Cam (a lifestyle blogger and “the face of childless women”) is asked by a brand manager whether she could be more like “Maria, a mummy blogger at BubbsyWubbsy.com”. It’s has lots of tongue-in-cheek humour gently mocking the blogging world and how other people must appear to those with opposite interests. HOWEVER, this book also treats blogging as a serious full-time self-made career, which is refreshing to read in a novel. Cam has a big house, she’s successful, and yes, she writes on the Internet for a living.
3. It’s clever portrayal of trolling
One of the characters you don’t expect turns out to be a horrible online troll in her spare time. Dawn writes trolls as being three-dimensional in this book – they aren’t sweaty old men who live in basements, the trolls in this book are real, genuine people, with problems and heartache and life issues.
4. It highlights imperfect friendships
Tara has a friend called Sophie who has sort of “changed” since marrying her husband and does so many things that annoy Tara. Sophie has become materialistic and a bit fake. But you also warm to Sophie because she is (mostly) there for Tara when shit hits the fan. In some chapters you dislike Sophie, in some chapters you like her – this relationship hits home the message that sometimes friendships aren’t perfect. It posed some questions: when do you dump a friend? When is a friend being shit? Or do we have to let our friends be shit sometimes because life is messy?
5. It discusses death in the digital age
Stella’s twin sister Alice died, and Stella still has the Facebook password to Alice’s account and sometimes logs in to see her “online”. Stella’s point of view is really beautifully written and suggests so many ways in which grieving has changed since the age of social media.
6. It highlights that going viral is stupidly easy and asks “is this ethical”?
The big storyline in this book is about Tara going viral…accidentally. I love this whole plot (it’s funny AND cringey) as it really does sum up the weird world we live in at the moment, where one tiny wrong move can end up on the front page of the Mail Online. Remember that horribly shaming Facebook group “Women Eating On The Tube” and how weirded out and violated people felt by that? Well, strap yourself in for The Cows.
7. We are all more connected than we think
One of my favourite things about this book is how at the start you think you are reading three separate women’s stories but the plot thickens and it is an absolute page-turner. By the end you will race through it as you start to realise these women are VERY MUCH connected to one another.
So, buy this book, then buy a copy for your mate, and then get some wine, laugh and squeal together.
“In love with Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Delete. So funny & smart, and reminding me of some of my own cringe teen Internet exploits!”– Anna James, former literary editor of ELLE
"Funny, honest, and nostalgic!"– The Debrief
“Emma Gannon is a bright spark of light in the world. I seriously dig everything she makes”– Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Big Magic