Bad Mothers United by Kate Long
Lovely Kate sent me a signed copy of this, her latest book, the sequel to her first, The Bad Mothers' Handbook. Fans of the first had asked her to write a sequel, so she bowed to pressure and did. And I for one am very glad! Although I've loved all of Kate's books, its the characters from Bad Mothers' Handbook that stayed with me the longest - that might be partly because I loved the TV show made from the book as well. So it was lovely to be treated to another 400+ pages about Nan, Karen, Charlotte and Daniel.
The Bad Mothers' Handbook ends with Charlotte coming to terms with teenage motherhood, Karen coming to terms with the news that she was adopted, and Nan fading away with dementia in a nursing home. There's hope for their futures but clearly more to tell.
Bad Mothers United picks up three years on. Charlotte's at university, with Daniel at her beck and call. Karen's working as a teaching assistant and bringing up baby Will during term time. Nan, sadly, has passed on, but we get transcriptions of recorded conversations with her, made by Karen as part of her project to document her family's history, so she lives on through those. (It's kind of Kate Long's trademark, using some quirky way of telling parts of the story other than straight narrative, and it works very well.)
Quite early on in the book you begin to think that Charlotte is not worthy of having such a lovely boyfriend as Daniel, and indeed, eventually he realises how much she is using him without giving much back. Even so, when he decides to cool things between them it's a bit of a shock - no Daniel in the book for a few chapters! Karen has a dishy new neighbour, but one apparently with secrets to hide. And her ex-husband Steve is hanging around far too much - when he's not whizzing off on his mid-life-crisis motorbike, that is. Karen's also very down, missing Nan so much she's almost seeing ghosts. Charlotte then has the bright idea to track down Karen's real mum, to cheer her up.... and at that point you just know that disaster is looming around several corners...
The characters are written with such warmth they become real friends by the end of the book, and once again you don't want it to finish. The northern dialogue is done so well you feel you can actually hear those Lancashire accents. And the plot lines are tied up in wholly satisfactory ways. I doubt there'll be a third book - Charlotte's finally grown up by the end of this one. It's rare that a sequel is as good as the original, but this is quite possibly better. I absolutely loved it.