Title: How to be Perfect
Author: Holly Wainwright
Published: August 29th 2018
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 5 stars
The bestselling author of The Mummy Bloggers is back with another page-turning, rip-roaring story about mums, phones and the cult of self-improvement.
ELLE CAMPBELL is back, holed up in an exclusive retreat where women pay thousands to mimic her extreme lifestyle, or die trying. But who’s bankrolling Elle’s new empire? And why are her two tiny sons suddenly absent from her glossy public image?
ABI BLACK just wants to marry her true love under a tree in the garden on New Year’s Eve. But her ex-husband is building a financial cult in the shed, Elle is looming and her teenage daughter’s YouTube channel is gaining followers for all the wrong reasons. The wedding might have to wait.
FRANCES GRAHAM has a colicky newborn, an absent husband and a WhatsApp mothers’ group that’s giving her anxiety. But she’s certain that if she can just be more like those fitmums on Instagram, things can only get better. And surely, if she can scrape enough money together to make it to Elle’s retreat, everything in her life will be just . . . perfect.
Through a world of fake gurus, green smoothies and bad influencers, How to Be Perfect follows Elle, Abi and Frankie into the cult of self-improvement that’s taking over your phone . . . and your breakfast.
How To Be Perfect is the hilarious sequel to The Mummy Bloggers from Sydneysider Holly Wainwright. Even though it is a sequel, rest assured that it can be read as a standalone as the events from the first novel are adequately explained. This book is a mirror to the world that many women find themselves living in….yummy mothers living the ‘perfect’ life through social media that others aspire to despite the unrealistic expectations and mounting pressure. Told in the third person through the eyes of a few characters, the story takes place in the Australian hinterlands from October onwards with some familiar and new faces.
For fans of The Mummy Bloggers Elle Campbell and Abi Black are back. Elle is now in hiding and carefully constructing the perfect social media come back after pretending that a family member had cancer. She has established a blog that other ‘Goddesses’ pay the privilege to be a part of, sharing her condescending wisdom with the masses of women who adore her…the wisdom of cleansing and detoxing oneself, of eating organically, of yoga, of breast feeding. The list is never ending! While Elle is a woman I could not connect with or understand, I did find myself giggling at the ridiculous and extreme lengths she went to hide the truth of her personal life from her fans.
On the flip side, there was a serious aspect to How To Be Perfect, put under the microscope through Elle’s relationship with the man in her life, Ben. Wainwright looks at domestic relationship and the slow burn of violence within this new relationship. It is so subtle that as a reader I didn’t quite realise what was happening to Elle until nearly the end of the novel. To give the reader an alternative perspective to a situation that many women face, Ben is also given chapter time. Despite this, Elle still came across as shallow and selfish, putting her ‘fame’ before everyone and everything, including her own children. Her acts were often deplorable when it came to her children and I felt little sympathy for her when her life plan didn’t work out as intended.
Abi Black also makes a return as an enemy of Elle’s. Abi too has her own blog followed by others and is on the verge of marrying the woman of her dreams. I appreciated how Wainwright dealt with the marriage of two women so naturally, treating it as just a part of the storyline. Personally, I found Abi to be more relatable and less condescending character then Elle. Abi isn’t driven by social media fame, putting her own children and others first. But like everyone else, Abi’s life has its own ups and downs, many due to the unusual, dramatic living conditions she finds herself in. Abi’s problems are also ones which she is initially unwilling to face, such as her teenage daughters fame on Youtube. Many parents could relate to the problems this social media platform causes between mothers and daughters! Abi’s relationship with Grace is not as strong as it appears to be either, which Abi appears blind to for much of her journey. Grace provides her own point of view in some chapters which added greater depth to their relationship.
The new girl in the mix is Frances Graham, new mum, and worshipper of Elle Campbell. Frances is the Jennifer Aniston of the group that everyone can relate to. She is feeling the pressure to live up to Elle’s image with a new baby and her absent partner. Elle is convincing as Frances does all she can to save money to follow Elle’s advise and ultimately, attend Elle’s retreat. I felt sorry for Frances as she truly believed that if she could buy what Elle was selling, eat and drink just like Elle, she would be living Elle’s perfect life. So many women are under the pressure that Wainwright thoroughly explores. In the end though, trying to be Elle causes more problems than Frances expected and it is not until she attends the retreat that Frances can see the truth behind the glamorous image.
This is the perfect follow up to The Mummy Bloggers, a witty and honest look at the world in which we inhabit today in all its glory and failings.
How to be Perfect by Holly Wainwright was published on 29th August 2018 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of How to be Perfect, Holly Wainwright, visit here.
*Thanks extended to Allen & Unwin for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.