Book Review: The Hungover Games by Sophie Heawood

One friend and I, when we meet up, always have an agenda to make sure all topics are discussed. There is an agenda story that always amuses, where one of her bullet points was about her ex-husband being ‘somewhat unhelpful’ – paraphrased into a 4 letter word – and he then saw the agenda when dropping their son home – awks! So now the agenda tends to be on a phone. One of the standing agenda items is ‘books’ as we’re both avid readers and have similar – although not identical – tastes. Last time we met up she said how she’d enjoyed The Hungover Games – and I said I hadn’t read it yet but wanted to, and the next day it arrived in the post for me! Now that’s a fabulous friend! (And as I know some of you will be interested, she sent it from Hive – which is a British based, tax paying company who support independent booksellers!)

Here’s the blurb about The Hungover Games:

I had no idea how to commit to another human being. I could barely commit to reading a magazine, and I wrote for magazines for a living. My specialist subject was celebrities, and my own relationships made their marriages look eternal. I’d never paid a household bill that didn’t mention bailiffs, and my idea of exercise was to go and stand outside a famous person’s house and stare until I’d convinced myself that I lived in it.
But my life in LA was happy; free of care and consequence. That was, until I came down to earth – with a bump.
So this is the story of how I staggered from partying in Hollywood to bringing up a baby in Piss Alley, Dalston; how I never did find a copy of What To Expect When You Weren’t Even Fucking Expecting To Be Expecting, and why paternity testing is not a good topic for a first-date conversation.
People always said I’d find love where I least expected it. I always said they were idiots.

I liked this book from the dedication, which reads “For my mother and my daughter – thank you both for bringing me up. You might want to stop reading here though.”

The story starts with Sophie in LA and ‘accidentally’ getting pregnant – but totally, properly accidentally – in that she’d been told she couldn’t conceive naturally – not just ‘accidentally’ in a rom com kind of way.

It then follows her through her pregnancy, birth, and the first few years of her daughter’s life.

Now, I’ve folded over LOADS of pages that I thought were brilliant and wanted to quote – but actually, I don’t want to ruin the surprise – so you need to read them youself! The lovely quote Sophie’s Mum uses when Sophie tells her she’s pregnant is beautiful (even if it is actually from a newspaper article about Janet Ellis and Sophie Ellis-Bextor!!)

There is also a surreal paragraph about Bromsgrove. Now this was something Sophie talked to a nurse about at the height of labour and was surreal for them both at the time – but even more surreal as I was reading it IN BROMSGROVE!!! (I should state I don’t think I’m the person Sophie met on holiday who was from Bromsgrove.)

One section that deserves a quote is this fabulous paragraph about the current generation of new parents:

“I have watched my generation of parents turn into Lady Macbeth, out damn spot out, not letting their child have candy floss at the fair, even though said child was conceived on a three-day bender, which began at a family wedding and ended in a ditch five miles from the nearest Wetherspoons.
My generation of parents are the same people who experienced the mass marketing of coolness in the early 2000s, when cool went from something belonging to the occasional brilliant freak like David Bowie to being widely available at Urban Outfitters instead. And so we have become the Urban Outfitters hipster parents, dressing out children in blue-and-white Breton stripes and feeding them halloumi and teaching them to call their penises penises and their vaginas vaginas, no, wait, it’s vulva now. These yummy mummies and rad dads all form part of secret Hallouminati groups whose membership codes are shrouded in ancient rituals involving dried mango, colour-coded Tupperware and half-term holidays at child-friendly festivals in Dorset. Their children have been given so many books about Amazing Women in History that any of them will now eye up a new picture book warily, muttering that this one better not be about Frida Kahlo again.”

That kind of sums up the book for me – witty, dry, observationally fantastic and oh so true!

It’s also really emotional at times – it’s definitely not been an easy road for Sophie – and that is quite evident.

The other thing that shines from the pages – is Sophie’s love for her daughter and their amazing bond. Whilst the conception might not have been planned – the love just oozes out of the pages. And I’m going to have to put another quote in – because as a Mum I thought it was amazing:

“You don’t ready someone to travel into a famine zone by starving them. You prepare them by fattening them up, giving them calorie reserves so they have warmth to spare in the cold, lean times. And so I have prepared my child for an ugly world by fattening her with love…….”

As I was kindly given a hard copy of the book, I’m now going to pass it on to another friend this evening, and then it should end up in the porch lending library that one of my other friends in the village started during lockdown, and is proving to still be a big hit. The gift of a book that keeps on giving!

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