The Yorkshire Pudding Club by Millie Johnson Book Review

Monday, 10 August 2020

The Yorkshire Pudding Club
Author: Millie Johnson
Pages: 464
Publisher: Pocket
Publication date: 1st January 2007
Genre: fiction

Trigger warnings; sexual abuse, emotional spousal abuse, assisted suicide, incest.

About the book
Three South Yorkshire friends, all on the cusp of 40, fall pregnant at the same time following a visit to an ancient fertility symbol.

For Helen, it's a dream come true, although her husband is not as thrilled about it as she had hoped. Not only wrestling with painful ghosts of the past, Helen has to deal with the fact that her outwardly perfect marriage is crumbling before her eyes.

For Janey, it is an unmitigated disaster as she has just been offered the career break of a life-time. And she has no idea either how it could possibly have happened, seeing as she and her ecstatic husband George were always so careful over contraception.

For Elizabeth, it is mind-numbing, because she knows people like her shouldn't have children. Damaged by her dysfunctional childhood and emotionally lost, she not only has to contend with carrying a child she doubts she can ever love, but she also has to deal with the return to her life of a man whose love she must deny herself.

I've got this thing in which if I own all of an author's books, then I need to start off reading their first ever published book, kinda to see where it all began. I guess my brain thinks that if there's any place to pick up an author's book, the beginning is a logical place to start, so this is exactly what I did with The Yorkshire Pudding Club by Millie Johnson. I've got every single one of her books sitting on my shelves but until now, I haven't delved too much into them. I did the exact same thing with Jane Fallon's books as well as Carole Matthews.

To begin with, this book was first published in 2007, which makes it 13 years old and therefore runs the risk of feeling outdated, however, I found this wasn't the case at all and it read like it would if it were published only a few years ago. I even found the bits about pregnancy still extremely relevant and I guess not much has changed in terms of medical side of pregnancy - as someone who has had a baby only a few years ago, I found myself reading about these women and their experiences very relatable and not at all outdated or old. I guess that could be a downside of this book though; it's only really interesting if you have been, currently are, or are wanting to be pregnant.

What I really appreciated about this book more than anything else, is that it shows the not-so-glamourous side of pregnancy, and I don't just mean the physical side effects of morning sickness and fatigue. This is a book that explores the mental and emotional side of pregnancy; Elizabeth is not sure she is ready to be a mother and is scared she might not love her baby. Janey is a career-driven woman and is struggling to come to terms with the fact that it's a possibility she might not now have that option, and Helen, who has always wanted a baby, is in a very unhappy marriage that is portrayed to the rest of the world as perfect. I really welcomed this premise as it's fair to say that I myself did not have a great experience with pregnancy, both mentally and physically, and I wish it was something more people would talk about, but that's a whole other discussion.

The book was a little slow at first in establishing all three women and their situations but in hindsight, it meant that I cared more about these characters and I wanted happy endings for all of them. I think all three women were really well developed and each had their own distinct personality. I've heard a few people say they struggled to get to grips with these characters because they were all a bit 'same-y' but personally I didn't have a problem with that. Yes, all three women are pregnant and therefore going through the same thing at the same time, but all three are different enough in themselves so that I didn't get confused with who's who. It's a testament to Johnson; I imagine writing about three characters who are all of a similar age and going through a huge lifestyle change at the same time and yet still managing to give them their own distinct personality must not be an easy task, but she pulled it off perfectly.

There are also some huge subject matters thrown in this book, which you can probably guess from the trigger warnings. This book was nowhere near as fluffy and light as I thought it would be. Compared to a lot of the other women's fiction (is that what we're calling it now?) this one is much deeper and tackles a lot of difficult subjects. I don't want to spoil anything, but I think Elizabeth's story is the one that was written and executed the best. Elizabeth's story is one that came full circle for me, and so was Helen's looking back, however, there was a lot of loose ends that just weren't tied up in this book, and whilst it doesn't matter too much, I still would have liked to have had that closure.

There is also a lot of Yorkshire slang in this book and I've heard a lot of people say they had to stop and look up what certain words meant. I'm not too far outside of Yorkshire/Leeds/Barnsley where this book is set, so I was familiar with some of them, but even I had to look up some of the dialect used in this book, which is fine and didn't interfere with my enjoyment of this book at all, but I imagine if your outside of this area, or even outside of the UK, you might have to stop and look up certain words a lot more than I did as there is a lot of them.

I really enjoyed this book and like I mentioned above, it wasn't overly fluffy which I actually prefer and appreciate. For a book that's nearly 14 years old, it's still very relevant and at times funny and at other times it's heartbreaking. I loved Johnson's writing style; it was captivating and left me wanting to read more. Her character development is spot on and I will definitely be picking up more of her books in the not too distant future.

Verdict: ★★★

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