And God Created the Au Pair by Benedicte Newland & Pascale SmetsThursday 07 Jul 2005
Harper Perennial, £6.99
If you'd prefer to have teeth pulled rather than listen to other people's stories about their children, then 'And God Created The Au Pair' is not the book for you. Consisting of a series of emails between sisters Charlotte and Nell, with the odd email from friends and other siblings thrown in to add background detail, the novel does have some real laugh-out-loud anecdotes but they're hidden amongst boring particulars of family life.
The story spans two years beginning shortly after Nell's move to Canada with husband Michael and their three children. The sisters email each other several times a week to keep in touch and fill each other in on their respective trials and tribulations of motherhood, from keeping up with the Joneses (or in this case the marvellous Suzette) to dealing with their children's illnesses.
The book is based on a weekly column from The Times newspaper written by real-life sisters Newland and Smets. However, while the concept of featuring real life email correspondence between two sisters across two continents works brilliantly in a weekly column, it becomes somewhat monotonous and dull in a full-length novel. Admittedly the authors have a talent for writing with great humour and brilliantly capture the domestic dilemmas of everyday life but there's just too much detail at times and not enough character development, which makes it difficult for the reader to care about what happens to these sisters and the rest of their family.
Maybe readers who have close relationships with their sisters or are mothers themselves might find more to love about this book but for the majority of us, it's enough to put up with our friends and family's tales of parenthood without having to endure it when we're looking for a little escapism from the mundane realities of everyday life.