I have been reading ‘Hens Dancing’ by Rafaella Barker after my Mother recommended it as it is her favourite book. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of this book. I am actually quite surprised by this as I do not always enjoy contemporary literature, especially literature that is aimed at women. Equally, I would never have read this book had my Mother not recommended it to me. For several reasons, this was not your typical ‘chic lit’; the characters were actually imperfect and realistic, the protagonist wasn’t a size zero who made me want to slam the book down and actually joked about her single-status and her slightly mad family frequently reminded me of my own. Felix, Giles, The Beauty and Granny reminded me of my own 9 year old cousin, friend, baby cousin and Grandmother respectively. For this reason, I was able to empathise with them and actually cared about their fates. When it comes to literature aimed at the modern female, this is most unusual for me as I usually consider the characters to be mind-numbingly boring half-wits in all honesty!
There were many characters in this book that I loved, especially Venetia and her children. When completing ‘Literary Listography’ recently I was unable to list any fictional children I actually liked, so this is most usual for me. I usually find fictional children to be twee, irritating and generally unsuitable to be one of the main characters in any novel, but will concede that, on this occasion, that tried and tested rule was broken! My two favourite characters in this novel were Venetia herself and her baby daughter The Beauty. Barker writes as Venetia, who is narrating the tale through her regular diary entries. Said entries are consistently incredibly witty, and thus ‘Hens Dancing’ has joined the small list of books that have succeeded in making me laugh aloud. I emphasised with the issues Venetia struggled with, as I’m sure a woman of any age will over the course of reading this wonderful book. Another thing relating to Venetia that made me smile was her relationship with her cheating ex, as the interactions between the pair never ceased to make me laugh. The Beauty was one of the biggest delights of this book for me. Everything she did succeeded in making me laugh aloud, from using her babywalker to conduct a reign of terror to being left crying and stranded in a tree. I loved her indignant attitude to those who ‘wronged’ her, and the fact that she was a ‘tiny tyrant’ rather than a perfect bundle of unrealistic delight. I was also rather amused by the idea of her Mother appeasing her and her small friend by playing the soundtrack of ‘Reservoir Dogs’.
Another huge bonus of this book was the beautiful prose. In her own unique manner, Barker managed to make me laugh at almost every page. There were few mistakes in the book, and this prose maintained its appeal throughout the 344 page novel. Seldom have I read a book with such an appealing narrative! Certain passages in this book, especially the ones relating to its heroine’s ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ attitude, were extremely relatable. I would attribute part of this to the charming way in which they are written.
In terms of a conventional plot, ‘Hens Dancing’ does not really have one! It is one of those novels that is all about nothing, but still wonderful due to the way it is written. Instead of a plot, the book is more of a series of events that are strung together before culminating in a pleasant conclusion. There are a few main points to the story, however it would be a difficult story to ‘timeline’ in a conventional manner. A considerable amount of the novel consists of Venetia’s pleasant ramblings about her life. The book was simply an absolute joy to read! It’s rare that one reads a book where every page appeals to them, but I would happily describe this novel as such a book! When I first read the blurb for this book I feared it would become boring and prolonged after a while, although I can now honestly say that this did not occur. As a whole, I simply adored this book!