I’ve always been a lover of all things Dawn O’Porter, going back to when she presented a range of shows on BBCThree. I found myself following her on Instagram a while ago as well as finding her books on Amazon. I’d purchased them (Paper Aeroplanes & Goose) but had never got around to committing and reading them. It wasn’t until her new book, released in paperback this Summer, came out that I realised The Cows was her first Adult novel.
Finishing up my last book I waited a few hours until the evening came around. A mug of tea at my side and propped up on a cushion in the corner of the sofa I delved into The Cows.
To begin with, I wasn’t sure what it was about. Did it involve actual cows? I gave the synopsis at the back of the book a quick read but the quote on the front cover “Don’t follow the herd’, led us in. Oooh.
In the first chapter, we meet three women – Cam, Tara and Stella. O’Porter writes the story in sections, going through the lives of each of the women.
Tara works in television, creating documentaries with Great Big Productions. A recent documentary she has been working on comes to expose sexual harassment in the workplace. Tara is forced to share the success of her work with her boss, working in a male-dominated industry. As a single mother, she continues to juggle the dating scene as she looks for a long-term relationship.
Cam is a young popular internet blogger who’s made her living behind the screen. With her readers following her blogs, she goes into great detail about her life. Although she may appear confident, outgoing and sociable on her popular blog, and in the bedroom with her younger partners, socially she is the opposite. She has no plans to settle down, spurred on even more by watching her sister produce children she knows she didn’t really plan on having.
When we first meet Stella she is seen as part of two, ‘the sister of’. Stella’s twin sister Alice died not long ago. With that part of Stella’s identity has gone too. She shares how their mum ‘…used to say that she was the rose and I was the thorn…My spiky nature was hidden by her softness. Now I’m exposed, without the petals of her personality to hide behind’. Stella’s character is struggling to move on from her sister’s death. Her boyfriend, Phil, finds it difficult to be around her especially when he returns home from work to find her wearing her sisters’ clothes. Stella clearly feels closer to her sister by doing this, however, Phil remains disgusted by it convinced by now that she should have cleared out her belongings.
As each of the characters grew I found it easy to find parts of myself in them, something I can’t help but feel was a perfectly planned act. Each character isn’t described wholly however as the story goes on I found myself mentally picturing how each one looked. In Cam with her unsociable behaviour yet I can also relate to Stella, who feels like the thorn whilst her sister is/was the rose.
The feeling of being unpopular, something I am sure we have all felt at one point in our lives. Personally speaking as a female who has worked in male-dominated industries (working in tech where only 17% of Google’s engineers, 15% of Facebook’s, and 10% of Twitter’s are women) it’s also something that can easily be related to, along with Tara working and feeling as though she needs to prove herself that extra bit more and even then can sometimes feel as though her/our work is overlooked or seen as a combination of everyone’s work, when it’s not. Being proud of her work can then be seen as showing off.
Adam, Tara’s boss, tells her to ‘stop acting like you’re in an ITV cop drama‘ after she shows him proof that she’s got footage in relation to Shane Bower, a managing director, admitting to sexually harassing employees. After telling her that Shane was an “easy target“, downplaying her work, he then headed into the main office waving the camera cards showing Bowers guilt and stated, “…we got him“.
Finding yourself in them.
“Fast forward 24 hours and we view her as just like ourselves, just as naive as us all at times.”
“I found myself mentally picturing how each one looked. As each of the characters grew I found it easy to find parts of myself in them, something you can’t help but feel was a perfectly planned act.”
I felt that with each chapter it was very easy to become at one with each of the women.
Whilst I could see myself in all of them there were also traits that as a reader brought feelings of exasperation. There’s Cam, with her strong-willed opinions she is inspiring, yet she could be seen as mildly ignorant to the feelings of those around her. Then there’s Stella, who was suffering loss and impending physical loss is admired for her strength to continue almost as normal, however, was seen as delusional when her planning to conceive a child with her boss Jason, who had no idea of such plan, unfolded. With each attempt at pushing Jason further away from a different relationship, we grew to see Stella willing to do anything to get what she needed. It’s at that point there are two choices. One, to see her as deluded as the others do or two, see her as just a woman who’s desperate yearning for a child means she will do whatever she can. And finally, there’s Tara, whose goal in life is to be happy, make her daughter happy and deliver her work with success.
So Many Questions
- Shall Tara ever be reunited with her date?
- Will Tara ever be given that happy ending?
- Regarding Tara’s daughter’s father, will he ever find out about her existence?
- Shall Stella go ahead with the operations?
- Shall Stella have the child she so desperately wants?
- Will Cam ever settle down like her Mother wants her to? Or more to the point will she ever want to?