Back in the early autumn Amanda @Bookishchat sent a truly incredible book my way. I knew from all the accolades it was receiving on Twitter it was going to be good; so I stashed it away for my half term holidays and waited.
It wasn’t good; it was incredible. So incredible I wrote literally pages and pages of notes and have sat quaking since then, wondering how on earth I am going to write a review to convey what this book provoked in me as I read it.
But the time has come, this book is released in January by Michael Joseph Books and I need to add my voice to the chorus already predicting it’s deserved success.
So what is the book about? Well in it’s simplest, most descriptive form it is the tale of three generations of mothers and daughters. Their narratives are woven throughout the novel. The main focus of the novel is Blythe and her own experiences as a mother and a daughter and how these are interlinked. Her narrative is told in the first person, it feels as if she speaks directly to you.
In essence this book is about motherhood. It examines every angle, every nook and cranny. The extreme highs and the dark lows; this is a story that is bound up in pushing the boundaries on that institution that society holds so dear, a story that probes at the edges of relationships and bonds.
From the first pages of this book the reader is challenged, you are pulled in and immediately find yourself dissecting the narrative and undertones of the story. From the outset there is an acknowledgement of how much physically and mentally motherhood can cost a woman.
Blythe might be the central character of this story, but her past experiences all feed into her narrative and her own experiences as a mother. Audrain lays bare traditional expectations and experiences. Through Blythe we feel the weight of expectation felt by new mothers. How giving birth can equate to a lack of control, control that is impossible to claw back. How society throws a blanket of perfection over motherhood, and perpetuates the lie of it being an inherent and natural process for all women regardless of age, background or personality.
Audrain acknowledges the weight of change that a baby brings to marriage and to a women’s life. She explores the very real sense of loss of self and identify, the changes to a relationship. There is a tangible sense of anger to this thread. So many times as a reader I was longing for someone to throw Blythe a lifeline, for someone to put a stop to the pretence that motherhood is easy, that it is some kind of competition, with winners and losers, and nothing in between.
Tantalisingly there are many moments when someone nearly says or does the right thing. When that fragile thread of solidarity, of hope that could change the course of actions is almost grasped. But no one ever quite probes deep enough or reaches far enough across the divide.
The narrative is multilayered and rich. Blythe’s past experiences and those of her ancestors highlight the different experiences of motherhood and how these feed into the experiences of children. The mental health of women and it’s lasting impact on the mental health of their children is explored in so many complex, critical and often dark ways.
The author does not shy away from the difficult and the uncomfortable, and while this story represents the highs and lows of mothering it is much more than just an honest and open account.
For this is also a story of that unique mother / daughter connection, and what happens when a mother can see something within her child that no one else seems to see. When a child is unique, even challenging, but the rest of the world does not see it, where does the responsibility for this lie? Or is it even a truth? Or is this brought about, even distorted by years of dysfunctional mother / daughter relationships? Who is to blame when motherhood doesn’t conform to the accepted norm?
There is just so much to say about this novel. So many ways to interpret and dissect the narrative, characterisation and themes. Even the title, The Push has so many different meanings. From the obvious links to the physical process of labour, to pushing through the dark encroaching days of parenthood, to later more specific and singular meanings within the plot itself.
This book is about to take the world by storm. It is a book that will challenge, often unsettled but it will stick with you and resurface time and again.
This one is not to be missed.