Monday, April 11, 2011

Mad Cows

STORYLINE: Madeline (Maddy) Wolfe gets arrested for shoplifting on her first outing with her baby, Jack. Despite her protests of innocence, she is locked away and subsequently refused bail.

She manages to spirit the baby out of prison and then makes her own escape. Her ex-lover - and the father of her baby - is of no use outside the bedroom, so Maddy is forced to find her friend Gillian (who has Jack) under her own steam. On her journey Maddy evades Edwina Phelps, (her assigned social worker, who is also intent on finding the baby), a lawyer who wants to have sex with her in exchange for her defense and a dangerous loan shark.

PLAYERS: Madeline Wolfe is left on her own after a passionate love affair with Alexander Drake, who she doesn’t know is married until it is too late. She is strong and independent and makes the best of a bad situation until her arrest and incarceration.

Alexander Drake: A shallow and selfish man who is only interested in his career and chasing young women.  Sperm donor for Maddy’s baby.

Gillian: leads Maddy on a not-so-merry chase to find her and the baby. Gillian has loose morals and over time, grows increasingly desperate for a baby. Jack fills the need to the extent where Maddie feels like a fifth wheel and steals him away.  Gillian continues her desperate quest for motherhood until she has en epiphany.

Mama Joy:
A Jamaican trickster and someone with heart of gold, who helps Maddy find Jack after he's abducted by the social worker.

I LIKED: the fact that Mad Cows was a hilarious read from start to finish, despite the serious nature of the plot. Maddy’s a foreigner in England, has few friends and faces a situation so much bigger than herself. She does some crazy things, like giving up and deciding to give the baby to his father, but in the end she makes the best choice for herself and Jack.

I COULD HAVE LIVED WITHOUT: the parts where the stomach-turning lawyer kept trying to get into Maddy’s pants, but her thoughts about him and his body parts added to the hilarity.

OVERALL COMMENTS: I’ve decided to give away books after I’ve read them to free up some space, but not this one. It’s been on my shelf for years and for some reason I’ve only just read it. I like humorous books, but this is by far the funniest one I’ve ever read.  I should have suspected from the first line, which reads:
‘‘Mother Nature’s a mingy, stingy, two-faced bitch,’ muttered Madeline, as she readjusted her jumbo-sized sanitary towel, hoicked up the baby papoose and hobbled painfully into Harrods in search of prunes to ease her post-natal constipation.’

And the wise-cracks continue on each page. Seriously. On the very next page, Lette sent me into hysterical laughter with the following passage.

'Wincing and mincing, Maddy inwardly cursed all those beatific Madonna and child paintings.  In not one of them is Mary crying in agony from cramps, cracked nipples, mastitis, constipation, haemorrhoids – or ‘bottom grapes’ as her friend Gillian so quaintly called them – hair loss, tooth decay, nor the sets of crippling contractions triggered by the baby’s sucking…Yep. God was laughing when He made women.'
Believe me when I say I laughed through every page of this book.  There were times when Maddie’s situation was so desperate that I wanted to cry.  However, Lette is so skilled that I also wanted to laugh at the same time. As I read this on the bus to and from work, I suppose people wondered about the expression I wore as I laughed.  It ain’t easy crying and laughing at the same time.

Though the book mostly felt like a light-hearted read, Lette took jabs at ‘perfect parents’, you know the ones who know all there is to know about parenting and engage their children in a whirlwind of activities? She also spoke to the prison and welfare system and classism. Another good thing about this book is that I learned some new words which included some Aussie terms.

I’m sure I’ll be reading Mad Cows again at some point in the future.  I’ll also be looking out for other books by Kathy Lette.

Words to the wise:  Don’t read this book away from home if you suffer from any form of incontinence.



  1. The style of writing is a juxtaposition with the theme in Mad Cows. From the excerpts, I would surely like to read this book. It sounds like it's going to be hilariously serious, or I can say seriously hilarious.

  2. Rachna, you won't regret reading it. It really is seriously hilarious to quote you.

  3. This sounds like a funny read. The excerpts are funny.

  4. Thanks for the detailed review! I hadn't heard of it but it sounds like a rollicking good read.

  5. Hahaha! Really enjoyed those first few lines :-)

  6. It's not possible to read the book for long without at least giggling. Thanks for dropping in.

  7. Sounds like a great book. Thanks for the recomendation.

  8. No problem, Kate. Glad to share on this one.

  9. In that case I think you will ove Janet Evanovich, she is even more so.

  10. I picked up one of her Stephanie Plum novels, I believe Visions of Sugar Plums, but for some reason I wasn't able to get into it. I plan to give it another go though.


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