The School Run by Helen Whitaker – Two mums. Two daughters. One School place


Lily and Imogen are two women who have ambitions for their children. Their ambitions for themselves are simple; survive the pressures of their relationships, survive the daily round of being a parent, and retain their sanity. The main ambition for their daughters is simple; to secure a place in the nursery which is a feeder for the primary school which will line them up nicely for a grammar school place in time. The problem is that such places are strictly limited to those with an address in the tiny catchment area, and to guarantee a place, attend the local church. Having a high profile in the school social organisations would also help. Going to church has been made a little easier by the attractiveness of the new vicar, but will his mysterious past mean problem or answers? Will Imogen and Lily’s old friendship mean that they can survive together or will the pressure of the elusive school place keep them apart? Will Yasmine and the other Organic mums with their conniving superiority mean that  anyone else will get a look in? Just what will it take to ensure that the Outstanding school will offer a coveted place to either Winnie or Enid? This sometimes funny, always fascinating book will introduce you to characters that have problems and triumphs that are familiar to everyone in the twenty first century. I was so glad to have the opportunity to read and review this engaging book.


The book opens with Lily trying to get her small daughter to pose for the photo on facebook that will get some ‘likes’. The coloured wall is high demand by other mothers who are keen to instagram their child’s first day in nursery. Enid is not co operating with her mother’s need to drop off her child and shoot off to work, she is high from her breakfast of sugary cereal which would be banned by Yasmine, the arbiter of what is good for small children at every turn. Lily is surprised to be approached by her old friend Imogen who has daughter Winnie in tow. She too has researched schools in London and reached the conclusion that the pre school attached to St. Peter and Paul’s is the best option. She is desperate to get a house in the catchment area, and as the book progresses she tries many options. Lily meanwhile is concerned that her challenging job where she must fight to keep her role means she cannot get back in time for Enid, especially as her partner Joe does not pull his weight. Nothing will be as straightforward as it seems, as the women  progress through school nativity plays crisis, school parties, and houses of dreams and nightmares.


The reality of contemporary life is to be found in this book, from parents with obsessions to awkward children. It is really funny, sometimes touching, and always truthful. I found the account of Lily’s job fascinating, and so truthful concerning the way she must maintain her commitment despite all the other pressures she is facing. This is an enjoyable book which deals with complex situations in a light and fresh way. As an older mother I recognise some of the pressures, and found it a brilliant read. I recommend it as a satisfying novel for everyone who has felt the pressures of daily life, especially with young children.   


After an exciting week working on a holiday club for older people last week, which was quite tiring, this week is dominated by the need to get my dissertation finished. It is probably not a good thing when a laptop seizes up from overuse….