A fantastic debut novel that takes a refreshing look at family, modern life, and the joyless merits of quinoa. Monday morning can't get any worse for harassed mum-of-four Jools Campbell when, after a frantic school run, she's cornered in the supermarket by pompous celebrity chef Tommy McCoy, who starts criticising the contents of her trolley. Apparently the fact that she doesn't make her own bread or buy organic is tantamount to child abuse. In a hurry and short of patience, she berates McCoy for judging her when she hasn't the time or the money to feed her family in line with his elitist ideals.
Unbeknownst to Jools, her rant has been filmed and immediately goes viral on YouTube, making her a reluctant celebrity overnight. With McCoy determined to discredit her by delving into her personal life, Jools decides it's time to fight her corner in the name of all the fraught mums out there who are fed up with being made to feel bad by food snobs like him. Armed with some fish fingers and her limited cooking repertoire, Jools must negotiate the unfamiliar world of celebrity while staying true to her instincts as a mum.
1. First things first; from grilled cupcakes, to dropped lasagnes, to fish finger pies – Souper Mum is filled with many of Jools’ finest culinary tales and delights. So please share with the group your biggest, most spectacular kitchen fail…
2. Sticking with food, it’s an important backdrop to the book and examines the current preoccupation with foodie culture. When Jools loses it with Tommy McCoy, is it just a reaction to a bad school run morning or does she have a point? Do the current trend for sanctimonious TV chefs pick at people’s parenting and life choices unfairly?
3. Jools’ and Matt’s relationship is key to the novel. What do you think about their marriage? Does the fact Jools have to question it means she loves him any less? What do you think about the way they met? Does this mean they settled for the lives they have? Have they just been swept away by real-life? Have they settled for each other? Or do you think their relationship is founded by a much hardier pragmatism, friendship, hidden depths? Discuss the effect Richie Colman has on their relationship.
4. Jools is quite often a mix of very different emotions and qualities and one can argue is still finding herself and her place in the world. Why do you think Jools decides to venture into celebrity? Is it a vendetta against McCoy? Is it an escape from the mundane of being a mother? Or is she choosing to define herself and who she is besides being a mother?
5. In Souper Mum, Jools’ mother comes back into her life. How do you think her relationship with her mother influences her journey in the novel? What realisations does she make? In the same situation, how do you think you would react: like Adam, Ben or Jools? To what extent is her relationship with her father important?
6. How does Jools’ relationships with other women in her life affect her life and journey in the novel? Think specifically about Gia, Annie, Luella, Donna, Paula Jordan and Jen Tyrell.
7. Which Campbell child do you relate to the most in terms of your journey as a parent? Is it the emerging maturity of Hannah? The random chaos of the twins? Or the quiet, ponderous sidekick, Millie?
8. Do you think the ending is satisfying? Where would you like to see Jools go from here? Do you think celebrity suits her? What have been the positives gained from her saga?
9. Are there any aspects of modern life and parenting that you can relate to in Souper Mum? Are Jools and Matt good parents? Is there anything you would have done differently to them?
10. Quinoa. It’s just couscous in disguise, no? Answers on a postcard to the author please. She’s still not convinced.
Thank you for taking the time to read Souper Mum with your book group and taking the time to discuss it. I hope you've had a wonderful evening, and that wine and laughing and nice nibbles like cheese straws have been involved. Please review Souper Mum if you like on Amazon/Good Reads and drop me a line if you want to ask me any questions or discuss anything further.