The Secret Diary of a Grumpy Old Woman

A parlous book. And that’s parlous, not peerless…

GOWI’m not quite sure how far I got through this book before hurling it across the room in fury. To put it very mildly, it is not my sort of thing at all.

I quite enjoy the series Grumpy Old Men when there’s half an hour to waste, and, having seen clips of Grumpy Old Women, though not the thing itself, I think I would enjoy that too, but this whole book is a misnomer, set to con you out of your cash for one thing while serving you up with something else.

For starters, despite all their pictures being on the front you won’t find any quotes in it from any of the GOW participants, which might actually have been worth reading. What it actually is, is a work of fiction by Judith Holder along the lines of Bridget Jones’ Diary (another godawful waste of trees) but this time, it’s life seen through the lens of a woman in her late 40s. A publisher’s idea of how to make a fast buck, if ever I saw one.

I dunno, maybe I’m weird, but at 45 and therefore supposedly firmly middle-aged, I can’t find any common ground with this book. In Diary of a GOW, the author copes with embarrassing hot flushes (haven’t had one yet), grey hairs (ditto), shapewear (it’s perfectly comfortable – what’s the problem here?), her two indifferent teenage daughters, one of whom is about to leave for college (I have no kids); her husband, otherwise known as the GOM (mine is just about the only person I can tolerate for an extended length of time), her awful boss Jocasta (I’m self-employed and probably unemployable), her grief for her dead father (my feelings about mine are a lot more ambivalent), and her recently widowed mother (mine’s dead and I feel a lot freer for it). 

OK: maybe my life is a tad odd. I live in a medieval manoir, picking the weevils out of the biscuits and grizzling about the world. And Holder’s issues are all fair cop as issues go, but the problem is, everything in this book is a cliche, disingenuously calculated to bring a tear to the eye or a sigh to the heart of the ‘average’ reader rather than having anything to actually SAY about anything. It is a fake.

The other characters are complete cardboard, from the young, sexy boss who does fuck all at work (so, we should all hate young people, should we? As if we are entitled to seniority by mere virtue of our age rather than actually having any ability), to the mother who is undone by her spouse’s death but discovers her hidden talents at creative writing class (oh don’t make me throw up –  like most women, my mother remained just as bloody annoying after dad died as she’d done before).

Chuck in a nice dose of author’s guilt at being a career woman (give me a break), her wittering about her grey hairs, widening midriff and inability to do up the poppers on her corset (more cliched comic situations), and follow with some folksy distress at her daughter leaving for university (as if most parents weren’t all too glad to be shot of their kids so they could turn their rooms into a mini-gym). Ye gods. It left me screaming for a dose of Florence King’s kinderfeindlichkeit, which at least has the benefit of actually being amusing, if not politically correct.

It was as the GOW sees her daughter off to Ghana as if it was somewhere off the map, and the second mention of ‘that lovely film Love Actually’ – one of the most meretricious, scheming works ever to be foisted on an innocent public by that wanker Richard Curtis – that I actually lost my rag and literally threw the book across the room in a temper. I can’t be bothered to read the rest – as the Italians say: "There’s no thief like a bad book." It is time that you don’t get back.

Can middle-aged women really do no better than this? Do we really have nothing better to say than aren’t kittens cute, aren’t babies adorable and won’t it be sad when the children leave home? It is such pap. Where is the real anger and fear we feel at this age? Where is the understanding and wisdom that helps us to deal with it? Where is the real humour? Actually, come to think of it, it’s in Florence King, so I suppose I’d better review her at some point.

Meanwhile, Diary of a GOW is a total waste of time and money – five stars on Amazon, though. You pays your money and you takes your chance.

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