With long-term leader Connie in a coma, numbers dwindling and the County Championships drawing closer, the Bridgeford Community Choir is facing its toughest test. Bridgeford is hardly a hub of new blood or talent, but this is exactly what the choir needs to find if it’s to continue. As steadfast members Alice and Lewis go on their own recruitment drive, up steps single mum Tracey and newly separated Bennett. And before long there’s more, if reluctant, recruits joining. Perhaps Bridgeford Community Choir may just have a chance at County Championship success. This is one of the funniest novels I've read in ages and was an absolute joy to get lost in. Hornby’s comic observances and witty repartee is perfectly pitched, but it’s her characterization that really excels, from bumbling Bennett, the hapless hero, to Lynn and Pat, the female answer to Bert and Ernie. Yet despite the comic brilliance, there’s a warming, inspirational, if cheesy, message about community spirit, companionship and working together to a common goal within it all. With such a huge ensemble of characters, it would be easy for them all to become a bit confusing or homogenous but Hornby infuses everyone from her leading lady to her minor roles with identity and personality. The plot and subplot development is a little thin especially concerning events outside of the choir, but honestly it barely matters such is the brilliance of the humour and the magnitude of the characters. There is a very British stamp to it all, and Hornby makes the scenes and characters so vivid that as you read it you can’t help but imagine it brought to life on screen in the vein of classic British films, complete with Mamma-Mia-esque singalong in the final scene. It's very much a screenplay waiting to happen. This is a novel that hits all the right notes and will have you laughing, and very likely singing, along. (JC)
This story centres around the mothers of St Ambrose primary school, which this year has welcomed a handsome new principal, Tom Orchard. But the real power lies in the hands of Beatrice, the queen bee of the school mums and chair of the fundraising committee. Rachel finds she's on the outer, cast aside after her husband left her for another woman. Heather is desperate to belong and is willing to volunteer for anything; Georgie really can't be bothered getting involved, Jo is dealing with a depressed, out-of-work husband and new arrival Bubba is happy to throw her money around. With a real sting in its tale, this novel - by the sister of Nick - offers a satirical look at the power plays of playground politics, a sort of Mean Girls as mums. Bea is cast as the truly despicable villain, complete with bullying child, and it was her ridiculous antics that I enjoyed the most. The writing seemed disjointed at times, which caused my interest to wane, and some might find the bee motif overdone. But still worth a read if you enjoy stories about women behaving badly.