Last summer I read in Womens Weekly or a magazine similar about a review of Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe. All highly recommending it as ‘comedy gold’ and full of humour and supposedly a great summer read. So of course I went out and bought it. The synopsis says it’s about a woman and her three children moving to a village that’s a little suspicious of an attractive divorcée so the two daughters go on a hunt to find their mother a husband to gain some respect within the village. Sounds good right?
Okay, so I’m thinking about two prepubescent girls who have some very immature and cute criteria for their mother’s husband. You know the stuff, a man who likes ponies (and will hopefully buy them one each) but it is exactly the opposite. They are way too mature for their ages, in my opinion, with emphasis on sex, pregnancy (termination and miscarriage feature), which I just don’t think children of that age should really have an in-depth knowledge of.
They go on this hunt to find ANY man (married, single, other) and secretly invite them to the house and literally set it all up so that their mother will have sex with these men and get pregnant (because pregnancy = husband) and none of it really sat well with me I’ll be honest. This book is set in the 1960s so it’s understandable why sex and pregnancy is important to ‘hook a man’ but I still couldn’t get over the fact that young kids were so aware of it.
The story follows the two daughters and is written from the second daughter, Lizzie’s, perspective. They analyse all the men in the town and their suitability as a husband for their mother, constantly adding and deleting from their ‘Man List’. Writing to the men, pretending to be their mother, to get them to come to the house and they went from there…
There is a good plot with one of the men that turns into a little mystery/man, you’re a douche! moment but from the beginning, as the reader, you already know something’s up anyway and wonder why on earth the characters haven’t already ditched him.
Man at the Helm is certainly not the comedy fest I was led to believe it would and I am disappointed in it because otherwise, had the reviews not raved about how hilarious it was, I might have enjoyed it more. It’s just the fact I was expecting one thing and ended up with the opposite.
It actually took me nearly 3 weeks to read this book simply because I did not want to continue. I was eager to get it finished before The Girl on the Train was released so I could devour that but it took a back seat until I finished this.
I give this book a 2/5 stars because it was still a good story but I honestly felt uncomfortable with the nonchalant way the young girls were talking about sex and its associations. I also downgraded it because it just wasn’t funny and I expected that from a book reviewed as ‘comedy gold’.
If you’ve read this book and enjoyed it, let me know. I wouldn’t not recommend it to people but now you know it isn’t the funny story you may have expected.