John O’Farrell – May Contain Nuts

john o'farrell may contain nuts

‘May Contain Nuts’ is a funny, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny book. It starts out as a farce,  an almost biting satire on ridiculously competitive urban upper middle class parents hot-housing their children into Prokofiev appreciation and contract bridge, children scheduled, tutored and stimulated; never left alone to do ‘whatever’, never let go. Satire on paranoid parenting with mothers checking every label of every foodstuff and not allowing an 11 year old to walk down the road to a newsagent, never mind travel on a bus to school. Satire on public (private) education system of preparatory schools and secondary colleges thriving on pretence, snobbery and unshakeable belief that children who don’t get the right education – paid for education, of course – will inevitably end up as drug addicts, prostitutes or Blockbuster Rentals clerks.

The story is narrated by Alice Chaplin, a mother of three and a very worried inhabitant of a ‘nice street’ in Clapham. On of the three is hapless Molly, facing an exam to a prestigious Chelsea College, established 2001 in the former Chelsea Hospital buildings after the last pensioner has been turfed out to Sussex. Alice and her financial consultant husband are simply desperate for Molly to pass that exam. So desperate, in fact, that faced by the reality of their daughter’s rather low performance in test settings they decide that the only way to attain the objective is for Alice to dress up and pretend to be an 11 year old just for the exam day…

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