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Book Review: Absolutely Smashing It by Kathryn Wallace


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If you ever need to read something that simultaneously makes you feel incredibly reassured that your life isn’t as much of a shambles as you think it is, while also reminding you that one person cannot achieve absolutely everything and that’s okay, then Kathryn Wallace’s debut fiction novel, Absolutely Smashing It, is exactly what you're looking for.

Published at the beginning of March 2019, Absolutely Smashing It is a hilariously open and honest tale about Gemma, an almost-forty-year-old single-handedly juggling two children - who never fail to embarrass her with their ability to shout out the most inappropriate things at the worst moments - a stressful job and a return to the dating scene. She has spent the last two years since her ex-husband ‘Nick the dick’ left trying to do it all, but feeling like she is failing at everything.

When Becky moves in next door with her husband, ‘Lovely Jon’, and her two kids, Gemma finds herself thrust into a new friendship with someone who finally understands. To the outside world, Becky seems to have it all. She has the perfect husband, the tidiest home, two gorgeous children, and is a stay-at-home mum so can devote all her time to them. But she also wants more, and together the women make a pact: Project Gemma-and-Becky. By the time she turns forty, Gemma is going to have ended her two-year-long sex drought and Becky is going to get out of the house and back into work.

The third-person narrative switches between Gemma, Becky and Tom - school teacher and love interest - and allows you to get to know everyone fairly equally, although Gemma does remain as the main protagonist throughout. I really enjoyed the instant female friendship between Gemma and Becky and how comfortable they felt within each other’s company. It isn’t until they meet that you get to see the real Gemma shine through, as a woman that is more than just ‘Sam and Ava’s mum’.

This might not seem like the type of book that would first come to mind when giving a recommendation to twenty-something students, many of whom are at a totally different stage of their lives than Gemma and Becky. I thought this too when I started reading, but I persevered because I liked the light-hearted tone and its ability to prove that no matter how badly I think my life is going at any given point, Gemma probably has it worse. But, the more I read, the more I realised this was far too simple a conclusion to make.

What starts off as a truly hilarious account of Gemma’s daily struggles with her kids, Sam and Ava, becomes a book which manages to explore much more serious topics too, many of which are prevalent in the media currently, all the while keeping that enjoyable reading experience and escapism. Not only does it discuss flexible working, gender stereotypes within the home, the difficulties of juggling full-time work with being a single parent, and attempting to return to work after taking a break to have children, but it also touches on a topic which I have never seen in a ‘rom com’, to categorise it generally, and that is male mental health. It came as such as a surprise to me, the details of which I won’t divulge in the interest of remaining spoiler-free, but it is such an important aspect which still remains quite taboo today. Even as a relatively short section of the book, this hopefully shows what can be expected of fiction in the future, even supposedly light-hearted and comedic ones like this one. 

While I often like reading novels that have a main character that I can easily identify with through their experiences, Absolutely Smashing It was far from disappointing.

To put it plainly, Kathryn Wallace really did smash it.

Absolutely Smashing It by Kathryn Wallace is published by Little, Brown (£9.66)

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