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  • Writer's pictureHelen Lederer

‘Gladrags and Hags’ Reading Group Blog...

May I introduce our Salisbury shadow reading group ‘Gladrags and Hags’ to share their own judging blog story with you. Their findings had uncanny overlaps with the CWIP Judges, as you will see if you scroll down. We also appear to have a shared pleasure in the complimentary gin…. Take it away ‘Gladrags and Hags’ (brave name btw)...

'Being part of the Comedy Women in Print Prize, even in our tiny shadow way, has been a giggle for us Gladrags and Hags. The excitement of not only receiving a box full of the newly short-listed books but also a large bottle of King of Soho Gin to sustain us was a fabulous start to our experience as shadow judges.

The biggest hurdle we faced was trying to get six working women in the same place at the same time, something we can achieve easily online but in physical reality proved tricky, and even when we did, remaining still enough for a photograph and not being distracted by the gin was an achievement. We found on reading the books this theme resonated, books about women of various ages trying to juggle all of their commitments of work, partners, parents, children, friendships and gin drinking. Smaller Gladrags contingents have met in random places from Waterstones, where we suddenly panicked that we might be mistaken for shoplifters as we heaved books from handbag to rucksack with quick notes on our thoughts, to The Cosy Club, where we enjoyed a G & T, and the green outside the Cathedral for a bit of an alfresco debate.

Asia Mackay’s Killing It has a brilliantly funny concept of new mum Lex returning to work, nothing unusual there you say, but her work is as a secret government department assassin. Mackay manages to convey all the anxieties of new motherhood alongside the longing to retain a sense of self and independence but in a pacy romp infiltrating Russian oligarchs and exposing corruption all with a bullet-proof pram and literal killer heels. It’s witty and fast but doesn’t shy away from the daily grind of new parent-hood and its impact.

The same issues of returning to work after children, to be more than solely a mother and the juggling of domestic duties between working couples leads us into Gill Sims’ Why Mummy Swears.

Centred on that particularly female struggle but from a light-hearted perspective, we witness a calendar year of the horrors behind PTA events and work drinks as Ellen attempts to be two people; single, modern, working woman and enthusiastic mother.

Family and community relationships are at the fore in Balli Kaur Jaswal’s Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, again it has a light touch with a young modern woman protagonist, Nikki.

Through storytelling the women highlight their histories, fantasies and desires. The book delves into arranged marriages and honour killing but retains its humour and is overall an uplifting read.

Dealing with community and societal expectations of young women in Laura Steven’s The Exact Opposite of Okay the author uses a sassy narrator’s blog posts to take us through Izzy’s story.

A contemporary young adult novel that deals with the use of revenge porn in today’s social media age. The quick-witted Izzy challenges this hypocrisy but also gains insight into her own behaviour through the hideous reactions she gets from the media. Female empowerment, friendship and trust is at the heart of this novel and Steven’s humour carries the reader through the difficult topic.

Some of us had already had the pleasure of meeting Eleanor from Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and were gleeful to spend time in her company again.

As a group we were surprised to see this book in a comedy category however, despite its dark theme it is about friendship, kindness and recovery. The humour is biting and difficult but joyous.

Our final shadow judge gathering meant six of us went silly in Salisbury. The sun shone leading to another alfresco debate, this time in Emma’s courtyard garden. Canapés both sweet and savoury accompanied our G & T’s as we agreed on the joy of the stories.

We realised we had the same favourites thankfully, so no handbags at dawn - because we can get feisty. But to choose one overall favourite was more complex. (CWIP EDITOR ADDS HERE a heartfelt ‘exactly’) Our top two have to be; Killing It for originality of concept as Mackay invents a whole world for a woman to exist in with laugh out loud humour. But for a gorgeous read Eleanor Oliphant gives us a poignant but darkly funny character and a story full of hope and kindness. As it is a comedy award the Gladrags and Hags believe Killing It fulfils an all round comedy book from amusing concept, witty dialogue and an all woman assassa-mum character.

(Ahem - CWIP EDITOR AGAIN - see what we said earlier? )'

The published category first runner up also receives 'exceptional recognition' from the judges:


by Asia Mackay

Our CWIP judges said 'The judges found this to be transgressive, hilarious, inventive and very funny throughout. They loved the strong feminist angle and the inventive take on working mothers. Expertly mining the comic seam of competitive parenting, the concept also showcased the authors intelligence in a consistently relatable and stylish read. Taboos are challenged with ease while the laugh out loud quota is reliably and delightfully high. There will surely be a sequel?' (Great minds then - CWIP EDITOR).

'It’s been a thrill for us all to be involved and a big thank you from Gladrags and Hags.'

And we thank YOU for your winning BLOG - CWIP TEAM

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