Oh! What a Pavlova by Isabella May
Kate Clothier is leading a double life: a successful jet-setting businesswoman to the outside world, but behind closed doors, life with Daniel and his volcanic temper is anything but rosy.
Some days – heck, make that EVERY day – cake is her only salvation.
Slowly but surely, the cities she visits – and the men she meets – help her to realise there IS a better future.
And the ley lines of Glastonbury are certainly doing their best to impart their mystical wisdom…
But will she escape before it’s too late?
The synopsis does not do this book justice.
Set between 2000 and 2009, this novel reflects the attitudes and behaviours of the time. From my perspective, much has changed in the ten to twenty years since then, though it seems so recent. Small, unheard beginnings in the Noughties, have come to great fruition, certainly in the UK. Attitudes towards women, towards our LGBTQ community, equality in marriage, and more. That’s not to say there isn’t an Everest of work to be done, but the story of Kate and Dan falls between 2000-2009, and that is our interest here. A powerful tale of love, misguided and misused, romance that isn’t, loneliness and friendship, it switches between light and dark through the entire work. It is emotional, painful, and cruel, while at the same time it amuses, engages, and entertains. The characters are mostly well-drawn though the central pair, Kate and Dan, are superbly defined and narrated.
Kate’s infidelities are raised in the very first sentence of Chapter One. I hesitated; she’s a cheat? I despise cheats. By the end of Chapter Two you are in turmoil and glued to the book, never mind the page. Torn in two, as a reader, between her ‘infidelities’ and her terrible partner Dan, it was imperative to find out what would happen to Kate, and how. (This is the point at which I have to say that I think readers would have been better served with a little less of her job and a lot more about her, Dan, and their relationship. It is the driving force of the book – but that’s just my opinion.)
Kate is a good woman, regardless of what we think of her behaviour. She is compassionate, kind, and cares about her friends and her job, which is running the Foreign Rights Department of a publishing house; a dynamic and important role. She could be described as something of a split personality, and reading her behaviour and actions, it takes a little getting used to. You see, at work and travelling from Book Fair to Book Fair, Kate is forthright, confident, and audacious; at home with Dan, she is cowed, timid, and submissive. He is abusive, and he terrifies her. Bit by bit Dan has undermined, criticised, and intimidated her and finally resorted to violence.
How did she end up here?
We learn that she was bullied and isolated at school, and Dan who is two or three years older, made her feel wanted and loved. Something she hadn’t experienced outside her family, and now they think Dan is wonderful and perfect for her, so she feels unable to talk to them, convinced no-one would believe what he does to her and how he scares her. We can now understand that Kate’s infidelities fill a desperate need for emotional and physical validation; she is desired, she is beautiful, she is wanted. So many times I wanted to shake Kate, point out how brilliant she is, but sadly abuse doesn’t allow its victims to operate rationally, or in their own best interests.
I know Dan. I met him growing up, at university, at work, and in other women’s marriages. You will recognise him too, I’m sure. Manipulative, sarcastic, belittling; eating away at a Kate’s self-esteem, her judgement, and making her second-guess herself. He follows his cruelty with the well-worn patterns of blaming her, ignoring what has happened, or sorrow, regret and begging for forgiveness.
Her friends Steph and Daisy are her partners in work and fun, and the men though typical of their kind in that time, made me laugh and howl in equal measure. These characters are nice and nasty, charming and contemptuous, quite real if not deep.
What is so great about this book, is that the author written about a very difficult and painful subject with a light and gentle hand. It would be easy to make certain scenes very ‘in your face’ violent, but what she does is ‘power it down’. That is NOT to say she shies away from what Dan does, but less is more. She makes the menace frighteningly and chillingly real so the impact is more powerful.
The episodes travelling abroad are a welcome light relief, and there plenty of them; they are comical, absorbing, filled with food and drink, and ‘shenanigans’. They also give the reader great insight into the working Kate who stands in stark contrast to the abused Kate. All things considered, it is a very enjoyable novel, her abusive relationship notwithstanding.
You really must read it.
According to Women’s Aid, ‘domestic abuse is an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer.’ Click on the link to contact them.
Men also suffer domestic abuse, and Mens Advice Line is there to help. They have an excellent booklet you can download – just click on the link to go to their website.
Myth: The law only protects women who experience domestic violence but does nothing to help men.
Reality: Men and women have the same rights to protection from domestic violence.
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Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. When she isn’t having her cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying her children to and from after school activities, she can usually be found writing. As a co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine, The Glass House Girls – www.theglasshousegirls.com – she has also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to her other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One). She has recently become a Book Fairy, and is having lots of fun with her imaginative ‘drops’! Costa del Churros is her third novel with Crooked Cat Books, following on from the hit sensations, Oh! What a Pavlova and The Cocktail Bar.