Bad Mothers United by Kate Long

Feels like ages since I’ve written a book review. It actually isn’t on the grand scheme of things but its certainly been longer than I would like! I have a few coming up in the next week though so that should be good. There’s no real reason for the break other than I’ve not had much time for reading and also I chose to reread some favourite stuff instead of tackling new books.


Simon and Schuster sent me an advance copy of Bad Mothers United by Kate Long. And then I got chatting to Kate on Twitter and she kindly sent me a signed book plate.

This is the sequel to one of Kate’s earlier books, The Bad Mothers Handbook which I also read when it came out several years ago.

Here’s the synopsis:
Before Yummy Mummies and Slummy Mummies, before the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, before we wondered How She Does It, there was The Bad Mother’s Handbook. Hundreds of thousands of readers lived a year in the life of Charlotte, Karen and Nan as they struggled with becoming mothers for the first time. And now they are back. Certainly older, probably not wiser, and definitely as hilariously catastrophic as before. For all those who have asked How to Be a Woman, here is How To Be…A Bad Mother.

Although I have read the prequel to this I was told it can also stand alone as a book. Which I would agree with. I did get a tiny bit confused at one point but that was mostly because I couldn’t figure out if something had happened in the first book (and if so how I’d forgotten it) or if it happened off screen between the two books. Thanks to the power of twitter Kate unconfused me. It happened off screen, in case you’re wondering.

I talk books a lot with various different friends and a few days mentioned this book to one of them. Who said she’d hated The Bad Mothers Handbook. That surprised me because I’d really liked it. She found the characters annoying and wanted to tell Charlotte to grow up she said. I found that interesting because I didn’t find that with The Bad Mothers Handbook but did find that I spent a decent sized chunk of this book wanting to tell Charlotte to grow up and both her and Karen to learn how to communicate properly.

I think when characters annoy you that much it’s a quite a good sign of how realistic and true to life they are. That went down as they book went on and events unfolded. It became more obvious why things were how they were and then it made sense.

This book takes place over a year and each chapter is pretty much a day in a particular month. I quite liked that format. We got a really good snapshot of key events (usually just a day but sometimes a couple) in that month and them we moved on to the next month skipping what could be a few days or a few weeks to get there. Which does mean that some things were building up and then it would skip to the next month and what came of it. It kept the story moving a lot and skipped some of the more obvious and possibly mundane moments like the fight about money I was sure Karen and Charlotte were building up to at some point. There was at least one point by the end that wasn’t resolved that I’d have really wanted dealt with but maybe they’ll be a third book and it’ll be dealt with then. It would make a brilliant plot.

Part way through the book Steve, Charlotte’s Dad and Karen’s ex husband has an accident and becomes disabled in a way that looks at though some degree will be permanent. The difficulties in sourcing the right equipment with all the bureaucracy and delays are shown in a good way and Karen also has to tackle the dreaded DLA form. The way it’s length (circa 39 pages with its own booklet to explain how to do it which if memory serves is almost as long as the form) and the questions are described is brilliant. That part alone could be used to highlight the true difficulties people have with that.

I would hesitate to recommend that however as a bit later in the book Karen discovers that a minor character has been committing benefit fraud. I was a bit angry about that because I’ve had to fight all my life to get all the help I need and claim benefits I’m genuinely entitled too. But the general idea is that we’re all faking to some degree and I worried that would help make reinforce that idea for some readers. But then I calmed down and returned to the book and discovered that actually it was handled brilliantly.

This book was one of those ones that keeps you reading. Not in an edge of my seat I can’t put it down type way but because I’d pick it up and the next thing I’d know is an hour’s gone by and I’ve read way more than I planned. It was a fun enjoyable read but as you can probably tell from my review it provoked some very strong emotions from me so if thats what you want, fantastic, But if a calming read is what you’re after I’d probably skip it.

One thought on “Bad Mothers United by Kate Long”

  1. Thanks so much for taking the time to review my book. I’m glad you found it thought-provoking and (I think?) enjoyed it. Re the benefits abuse storyline, the point I was making is that the very tiny number of people who cheat the system are an affront to those who genuinely need benefits – no one supports that kind of behaviour, whether you’re in receipt of benefits yourself or not. We’ve claimed DLA in this house and we know what a humiliating set up it can be, and I wanted to let readers know the kind of struggle involved.
    Best wishes
    Kate Long

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