Growing up on the embattled Mawr Estate in South Wales, all Gemma sees are burglaries, muggings, sadness and boredom. With a dad in prison and a mum who has given up hope, she, like everyone around her, is holding on to memories of the times when happiness wasn’t so hard to find.
When her search for the scene of a perfect childhood day takes her up into the surrounding hills, Gemma is forced into a meeting with the legendary Cowgirl. Everyone at school knows she’s a weirdo: six foot tall and angry, the only conversations she has are with the twelve cows on her dad’s farm. But with her abrupt arrival in Gemma’s life, everything starts to look different. And with her only friends in mortal danger of the abbatoir, it turns out she and Gemma have a mission on their hands. A gently funny story of a community coming together, this is a tale of happy endings in unexpected places.
Review by Gill-Marie Stewart:
I loved this book. I’m always a bit dubious about books that are shortlisted for prizes (this is on the shortlist for the UKLA and Waterstones book prize). I suspect they are books adults think youngsters should like, and not necessarily what young people do like. However, I thought I’d give this a try and I’m so glad I did.
It’s a charming, quirky tale of two girls in their early teens and how they cope with the various challenges in their lives. For Gemma the problems are living on a crime-ridden housing estate, having her father in prison, trying to find her place inside or outside a gang at school. For Kate the problems are the threatened sale of the cows on her father’s farm and also her isolation at school. It is the cows that bring the girls together on a crazy mission to save them from slaughter. Along the way this involves a variety of people on the Bryn Mawr estate. At times wacky, at other times sad, this is a genuinely moving story.
Set in the Welsh valleys, you can almost hear the singing lilt of the people as they speak.
Interesting that this is a book with a first-person female teenage narrator but written by a man. Not something you see very often – but none the worse for that!