When I was in my twenties, I loved reading chicklit with its tales of disastrous romances, glitzy parties and endless late nights. Now I'm almost out of my thirties and a mum of three, I find it hard to relate to the footloose and fancy-free heroines of the books I used to love, but I'm pleased to see that chick-lit seems to be growing up with me, now often featuring the more "grown-up" problems like parenting, paying the mortgage and the daily grind at work.
The Playgroup taps into this slightly more mature mindset, following the lives (and loves) of the eclectic mix of mums dropping their kids off at Puddleducks Nursery. Gemma Merryfield has stepped into the role of playgroup leader and you can't help but instantly warm to her as you see how enthusiastic she is and how much she cares about her young charges, but also their mums. The neighbouring school, which works in partnership with the nursery to prepare their reception class's transition to big school, also has a new head in the shape of the rather brash, tactless Joe Balls. (He wouldn't last a minute in the school I work in with a name like that !)
The first half of the novel focuses on the divegent personalities of Gemma and Joe as they try to get over their differences and create a stable working relationship. Some of the mums have their own problems to add to the mix and, when one of the playgroup kids becomes criticially ill and another one disappears, it's all very believable and pulls the heartstrings for any parent who can't help but relate to how they would feel if it was their own child.
I actually thought to myself that it made a nice change to find chicklit that didn't totally revolve around love triangles and broken hearts. I was getting a bit beyond myself there though because, inevitably, Cupid's arrows eventually target Puddleducks and different romances start to blossom, some more successful than others. By then, I'd actually got to really like Gemma as a character though, so I was pleased to see her getting back some of the happiness she spreads to her nursery children and mums.
It's a great feel-good novel that would be ideal as a bit of lightweight reading by the pool this summer.
star rating : 4.5/5
RRP : £6.99
Paperback: 496 pages
Publisher: Arrow (2 Feb 2012)
Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13 x 3.2 cm
Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.