All The Books I Can Read

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Review: Those Other Women by Nicola Moriarty

on April 11, 2018

Those Other Women
Nicola Moriarty
Harper Collins AUS
2018, 434p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Poppy’s world has tipped sideways. The husband who never wanted children has changed his mind. The trusted childhood best friend has betrayed her. And the new friend from work, Annalise, insists she need to let loose.

At least Annalise is on Poppy’s side – she has no interest in having kids either. After they create a private Facebook group dedicated to women like themselves who don’t have or want kids, the memberships soar, and Poppy feels like she’s in control again. Then things take a nasty turn. They have a mole – someone in their group isn’t who she says she is.

But Poppy and Annalise aren’t the only ones who are fed up. Their colleague, Frankie, is tired of being judged at every turn: by colleagues when she leaves early to pick up her kids, by stay-at-home mums when she can’t volunteer at school, and by her own children for missing events. Her frustrations are complicated by a secret she’s keeping, and she doesn’t know how much longer she can pretend everything is fine.

As the online hostility between parents and non-parents spills out into the real world, things begin to slide disastrously, dangerously out of control, exposing carefully concealed secrets and lies that will have a devastating effect on these three women’s lives.

It feels like as a mother, the judgement is never ending. Vaginal or Cesarean birth? Breast feeding or bottle? Going back to work or SAHM? Your child is too loud, too outgoing, too annoying, your child is too quiet, is there something wrong with them? It’s a cycle to get trapped in, well into your children becoming adults. It seems every choice you make will be scrutinised and judged – mostly by other mothers, but not always.

And then there’s the choice not to have children. That can bring about plenty of judgement. Prominent women who have chosen not to are constantly questioned on it – Julia Gillard is a prime example. In this book, Poppy and her friend Annalise don’t want children. Annoyed they’d be disqualified from joining a local Facebook group because of that choice, they create their own. Strictly for women who are not parents and do not want to be. That bit is important. This isn’t a group for people who are trying but just haven’t fallen pregnant yet, or who want to some day. It’s for women who have all made the same choice, for whatever reason, not to ever have children. It’s for discussing the best quiet cafes, or bars where there are no kids running around. For discussing the best way to dispatch nosy questions from family members or friends who want to know why they don’t want children. What starts as something to bring like minded people together somehow quickly escalates into something of a war with the women in the mothers group.

I think this book does a good job at looking at both sides of a choice and analysing how people can make snap judgements or get the complete wrong idea from just a snapshot in time, a comment, etc. Poppy and Annalise dislike questions on why they don’t want children and feel judged by others for not wanting them – the slight look of pity, the ‘you might change your mind one day’ condescending remarks, etc. But that does not exclude them from making plenty of snap judgements themselves. The way in which they look at women who work in the same company as they do, but who have children, was very eye opening. They are constantly rolling their eyes, making snide remarks or taking bets on who will ask for time off in order to attend family commitments. Both of them look at a situation at work, make an assumption and then treat that person accordingly. They tend to paint all the mothers in the other group (possibly even in Sydney) with the same brush – women who take their little chaos-wreaking darlings everywhere without a care or thought for anyone else, sitting idly back while their children run wild, destroy cafes and restaurants and ruin people’s day.

As a mother of school aged children, I tend to only socialise with other mothers – it’s who I know. Women roughly the same age as me with kids roughly the same age as mine. Everyone in my family has kids, almost everyone in my husband’s large (Italian Catholic) family has kids. I don’t have many childless friends and if they are childless then I haven’t actually asked them why because I never feel like that’s something I should ask (and after reading this book, I’m so glad I haven’t). Some are women who are older than me who will never have children but whether that’s by fate or choice, I don’t know. I have a few childless acquaintances on facebook but not the sort of people I would catch up with in person. When I do meet with friends, it’s kid-friendly places – parks, cafes with playgrounds, etc. Something for everyone so that if I sit and have coffee or a chat, the kids are occupied. I try to avoid fancy places and would never take my kids to a bar. Because of this I don’t really have to think of the logistics of meeting people who don’t have kids and what they feel is an ideal catch up versus what I feel is necessary so this was a really interesting part of the story for me. I also don’t have many options in the way of care for my kids – my family live interstate, my husband’s family are 1.5 hours drive away, not exactly convenient for a quick few hours of babysitting. So if I can’t take my kids somewhere and my husband has to work, I don’t go. It’s a part of life with having kids and I can understand that for someone who doesn’t have children, a friend who is constantly rescheduling or cancelling on you can be irritating and leaving them feeling like that person isn’t really interested in meeting up. On the flip side, those without kids often don’t realise the sort of organisation that comes with kids – when they’re little it’s feeding and sleep schedules and when they’re older it’s sporting commitments, therapy appointments, etc. You can’t just go and do something on the spur of the moment very often.

In this book several of the women are forced to confront some of their prejudices and some of the judgements they’ve made about other people, especially wrong ones. It actually plays out in a really clever way and Moriarty works in an underlying message of trying to let it go, not let the choices of others be something to criticise or feel defensive about your own choices. For both sides to accept each other and try to foster conversation and support for all women, not just between those who have kids or those that don’t.

I found this really compelling – absolutely did not predict some of the things that happened and I really liked the way everything was told, with Poppy, Annalise and then bringing in Frankie, a character that the reader had only seen through Poppy and Annalise’s eyes. It really worked in terms of showing the reader how easily things can be misconstrued and how that can result in people getting it wrong and then acting on those wrong assumptions. Frankie was actually for me, probably the most interesting character in the book, once it got into examining her work and home life.  I think that this is definitely one of those books that is like a ‘break out’ book for the author. Unputdownable!


Book #66 of 2018

One response to “Review: Those Other Women by Nicola Moriarty

  1. I’m quite pleased to read your review on this. I’ve found myself very over what I like to term ‘warring women’ stories and was a bit hesitant about this one. I’m also a bit over reading books that have parenting in them because a few recent ones have really gotten on my nerves in terms of the behaviour of children portrayed and the parenting responses to those behaviours. So I’m glad to hear it was good! My expectations were otherwise.

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