So, when the lovely folks at Penguin Books offered me a chance to read and review “Mutton” from India Knight I jumped at the chance to read something a little different for me. When it arrived I popped it onto the shelf to await my attention – where it caught the eye of my lovely daughter Mel. Insisting it was far more her sort of thing than mine, she got there first – and so the seeds for this article were sewn. Considering the subject matter, that of growing old gracefully (or not as the case may be) we thought it would be fun to do a joint review from the points of view of a 20 something and a 40 something. Penguin were also on board with this idea, so here we are. Kindly, India Knight despite being extremely busy, took the time to answer a couple of questions, one for me and one for Mel. So here are our reviews, followed by the question we asked. Have fun, we did!
‘Mutton’ was certainly an interesting read for me. On the surface a light hearted chick-lit, the tale follows 46 year old Clara Hutt, a well-grounded mother who thinks she is happy with her life, and her looks, until an old friend (Gaby) comes to stay looking FABULOUS and utterly demoralises her.
Debating the many issues surrounding cosmetic surgery and treatments, ‘Mutton’ is a book about getting old, and whether we should try to do it gracefully, or simply grab hold of our youth kicking and screaming until we end up looking like PamAn. Coming at it from the point of view of a 22-year old that already worries about wrinkles (the nice lady in superdrug assured me that I do not, in fact, need the ‘age-defying’ brand of foundation) the main problem I had with this book is that it terrified me. The trials and tribulations that Clara goes through are the very things that keep me up at night, simply because one day I WILL go through them – I’m sure all you fortysomethings are rolling your eyes, but it’s true. Cellulite? Saggy tits? LIVER SPOTS?! Kill me now. I’ll be a complete Gaby. Then again, if mum starts getting botox or going out clubbing I’ll be having words with her…
Alongside the main plot we follow the story of Clara’s son and his girlfriend, a couple of teenagers who get themselves into a sticky situation. What I found odd is how, for the first time, I identified more with the adults in a book than the younger characters. Maybe, I might be… a grown up? Either way, both parts of the story link together nicely, with teen angst providing an excellent backdrop to contrast mid-life crisis.
When it comes down to it, more than anything this book made me laugh. I laughed on the bus until people started glaring at me. I laughed in bed until my boyfriend woke up and asked me politely to shut up. I laughed on my own, and then laughed some more because why not? Bravo, India, Bravo.
Mel Asked: How do you think your viewpoints would have differed had you written the book 20 years ago?
Oh, I’d have written a completely different book 20 years ago – something hectoring and intransigent about the very IDEA of having anything done. I’d have banged on about the beauty of a lived-in face and concluded that anyone who even considered the smallest intervention was unforgivably shallow. As Clara says in the book – it’s lovely to hold those opinions, but the women who hold them tend not to be in their fifties.
Right, anyone that reads my blog and reviews regularly may have noticed that I don’t really do “chick lit”. But when Penguin offered me a copy of Mutton by India Knight I jumped at the chance…expecting a novel similar to “Bridget Jones Diary” but from a slightly older point of view, that wasnt exactly what I got – but what I DID get was a laugh out loud wry and humerous look at the joys and downfalls of reaching a certain age…
Clara is pretty much every woman…she certainly had a hint of me in there – and when her friend Gaby moves in, all glamorous and youthful looking with a rather strange outlook, hilarity ensues as Clara begins to question what “growing old gracefully” actually means…
My daughter Mel, who is 22, and I both read this book at around the same time…she started first and at one point I got a text message from her telling me I was only allowed to read it if I promised not to get botox or bring men home randomly to fulfill my inner urges – unless I reassured her on this point she said, she was banning me from reading “Mutton” A few laughs later and I was finally allowed to have it back…and I must say it was a whole lot of fun!
India Knight has a fine sense of irony and a wry eye to the ridiculous side of suddenly realising you are probably just slightly too old to get away with that mini skirt now, but equally you don’t want to go all mumsy. Also the relationship Clara has with the younger members of the household is quite realistic (certainly from my experience) and I loved the way that you could pick this book up at any age teenager onwards and probably find something to love.
Highly enjoyable – while writing this review I was giggling as certain parts of the story came back to me. Its not going to change your life – but thats not the point. What it WILL do is give you a lovely little break from your own existance and let you live a short time in someone elses shoes. Great fun!
I asked: How much of Clara was based on yourself and your personal views on getting older?
Clara started off being pretty much me (in My Life On A Plate), but these days she’s become her own person and there’s only about 10% of me left in her. There’s still some overlap, but it’s almost accidental. Having said that, her views on ageing do mirror mine, more or less – but I hope that they also mirror those of any woman who catches sight of herself one day and thinks “I’m not overly delighted with this new wrinkle”.
Thank you SO much to India and to Penguin Books. I hope that anyone picking up this book after reading this will have as much fun as we did.
You can follow India on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/indiaknight
Find out more about Penguin here: http://www.penguin.co.uk/#
Purchase Information Clickety Click http://www.penguin.co.uk/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780241955048,00.html?strSrchSql=india+knight/Mutton_India_Knight
Happy Reading Folks!