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Book of the month

November non-fiction book of the month: Nobody Told Me by Hollie McNish - watch our exclusive video

52 replies

RachelMumsnet · 03/11/2016 12:39

After a call out from Mumsnetters for more non-fiction book recommendations, we decided to introduce a non-fiction book of the month earlier this year. It's been a huge success with brilliant discussions and author Q&As and we hope you agree it's given us the opportunity to read a broad range of fascinating books.

Our November choice is a fitting book to end such a great year. Nobody Told Me is Hollie McNish's collection of poems and stories taken from her diaries from pregnancy through to her daughter's third year. Her diaries are funny, sad and perfectly capture those bewildering months of pregnancy, birth and early motherhood.

Watch our exclusive video of Hollie reading from one of her poems, 'Mushy Mummy Baby Brain' and apply for a free copy of Nobody Told Me.

All questions for Hollie should be posted on the thread before midday on Thursday 8 December.

November non-fiction book of the month: Nobody Told Me by Hollie McNish - watch our exclusive video
OP posts:

HuckleberryGin · 04/11/2016 15:05

I love Hollie and her poetry, really enjoyed your recent series on Radio 4 Woman's Hour.

I'd like to ask Hollie is she's ever had negative feedback or responses for sharing the "honest" side of mothering/parenting? I've often had people telling me that I shouldn't moan/share that side of it.


FlopIsMyHero · 04/11/2016 15:57

I can't think of a question but just wanted to say I loved her interviews on Woman's Hour. This morning on my drive to work I listened to her chat with the Scummy Mummies - great stuff! (Although I arrived at work a snivelling mess because she read 'Embarrassed'!)


JoMummy2boys · 05/11/2016 13:02

Would love to read Hollies book sounds brilliant. Im hoping to write a book too but finding the time to sit down and write is so difficult with working and looking adter my 2 young boys (with additional needs). My question to Hollie woud be do you have any advice about how to find tge time to write when you have children.


BristolLFR · 05/11/2016 19:21

Bought this book when I found out I was pregnant, I love it. Her poems are so full of raw honesty, I thoroughly recommend it


bananafone5 · 05/11/2016 19:35

Just finished Hollie's book the other day and although I don't read much poetry generally, as the mum of a six month old baby I was blown away by how she managed to put word to many of the feelings and reflections I've had through pregnancy, birth and beyond. It's really reassuring and made me feel like I'm part of a community of mothers/parents. At the same time, it's depressing that these feelings and experiences aren't more widely acknowledged in mainstream culture. So, just to say thanks to Hollie for writing the book!


SkaterGrrrrl · 05/11/2016 22:28

Great choice MN, Hollie is a legend. Seen her live and she blew me away. I already have the book and highly recommend it.


ParsnipSoup · 06/11/2016 19:28

So pleased Mumsnet has chosen this book. Holly's poems make me laugh and cry in equal measure. It feels like someone else really understands what it's like to be a modern day mother.


Sooty25 · 07/11/2016 08:50

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IveGotALovelyBunchOfCoconuts · 14/11/2016 23:11

It's hard to put into words the range of emotions I've felt when I've heard some of Hollie's poetry. As an American living in London, and mother of two, I've always felt fortunate to be raising my children in a country that is so much more accepting of a mother's choice need to breastfeed. I have never once breastfed in public in the US, for fear of public shaming. In West London, I happily fed in parks provided I had a cover draped over my baby, making us both warm and not truly comfortable - yet I felt a sense of freedom in it. Moving to Southeast London where my second was born, I found myself surrounded by the most amazing group of women, and realised I didn't need a cover, I didn't need to hide in the loo (at my GP's office of all places, where I'd gone for a well-baby check-up!), and I could feed my little girl wherever and whenever she needed, whether in a pub, cafe, park, bus, train, GP's reception - anywhere. My heart aches for all the mothers out there who weren't as fortunate as I was to find themselves in such an accepting community, for all the mothers who've felt pressure to cover up or feed their babies in public toilets, been publicly embarrassed, or been pushed to use formula when they preferred to continue breastfeeding. Whether you choose to breastfeed or use formula, it should always be your choice.


Shesaid · 15/11/2016 10:03

Holly is brilliant - how amazing that poetry can do the job of delivering the complexity of motherhood so much better than any political tract. I confess to a feeling of anxiety that young girls will be put off motherhood when they hear of the demands it makes on you. I'm yearning for a society / politics that really gives parents the choice to spend more time with their kids if they want to - i.e. properly funded shorter working weeks. I'll bet we would see a pay off for everyone in the future


RachelMumsnet · 15/11/2016 16:10

We've closed the giveaway form and will be informing all those who have been allocated books before the end of the day.

OP posts:

tworonnies1957 · 18/11/2016 22:08

A big thank you I received my free copy today I look forward to reading it and will get back to you with a review


nobodysbabynow · 27/11/2016 22:06

Thank you for my free copy! I found some of the poems really made me laugh, and I'd like to ask Holly whether she found any of her experiences funny at the time, or only in retrospect?


BearAusten · 28/11/2016 13:03

Thank you for my copy. It was a bit hit and miss for me. Some of the poems and prose really struck a nerve, especially when the midwife says 'If you can still talk on the phone...those aren't contractions.' Mine was a very fast (too fast) labour on paper: minutes rather than hours though as result. Some of it is laugh out funny, but others seem to be something totally alien to my experiences. I suppose we are all very different. Interesting read. (I will not let anyone suffer my attempts at poetry....The only thing which keeps going through my head is poo. Our life has seemed to revolve around it for quite a number of years now.)


asuwere · 02/12/2016 16:14

Thank you for my copy; I really enjoyed reading it. I laughed out loud quite a few times as I could remember a lot of the experiences myself.
Have you thought about going into politics in any way? I think there should be more policies based on the possible increase in orgasms! Wink


FernieB · 03/12/2016 16:17

Thanks for my copy MN. It's a long time since I was a new Mum and it brought back so many memories - especially the inability to drink a hot cup of tea. I recall having many cups of cold tea lined up in the kitchen by the end of the day, most of them still full and complete with teabag.

This is a great book for new mums as it celebrates the ups and downs equally. If anyone is looking to buy a pregnancy or parenting book, they should get this instead as it's much more realistic and definitely more entertaining.

I'd like to ask Hollie if there will be more books to follow as Little One grows up? My DDs are late teens now, and parenting during the school years is harder than the baby and toddler stage as they are influenced by people other than their parents. Friendship dramas and disagreements with teachers are brought home and agonised over and, unlike toddler dilemmas, they can't be fixed by parents, so you have to listen, advise and watch as they try to solve or work through problems themselves. The sleepless nights I've had because I've been worried about my DDs lack of friends/being bullied were 100 times harder than the sleepless nights when they were babies. On the plus side, conversations are more varied and interesting - the first time my DD disagreed with me and had a valid argument to back up her point was wonderful.


BedtimeBubble · 05/12/2016 17:34

Thanks for my copy. I love this book, almost as much as I love listening to Hollie read her poems on YouTube. I can really identify with lots of what she writes. I'd like to know how she will feel of her daughter reads her book when she grows up? Will she give it to her to read or wait until she is pregnant? I'd love to have something like this from my mum!


pinkinfection · 06/12/2016 21:48

Many thanks for the book, due to time restraints I am only a few pages in. Poetry isn't usually my thing but I have found the poems moving. Once finished I will be sharing with other members of my book club.


Archaeopteryx · 07/12/2016 09:22

Thanks for the book. I love Hollie and her poems. Her poems about breastfeeding especially have really helped me. Just one little niggle; the train poem. It got on my nerves. (Hollie was annoyed that commuters wouldn't talk to her toddler on a train) I hope you don't mind Hollie, but I wrote a little response to it. The view from the other side of the tracks, as it were. Grin

Sorry Hollie, for not smiling at your daughter.
I saw her happy face, I knew I ought to.
But I was on that train because my Nan had died.
Rushing home, to see my mum. I'd cried
All night when I had the call. So on the train I just couldn't smile.

Sorry Hollie, for not chatting to your girl.
I did try, but opening my lips I thought I'd hurl.
7th week of my secret, the ever-present taste of bile.
The commute is hell, and I just couldn't dial
Down my grump.

Sorry Hollie for not grinning at your Little One.
To be honest, rush hour trains aren't fun for anyone.
Today was the meeting that we'd all feared.
Redundancies, before the year
Is out.
So that's why I looked down at my feet.

Sorry Hollie, for hiding behind my laptop screen,
And not ordering a fantasy ice cream.
I'd probably choose chocolate, maybe vanilla.
But I'm a grumpy git, so I didn't.
Sorry about that.


Thanks for the inspiration Hollie! (Hope you take this in the affectionate way it is intended! Grin)


starlight36 · 07/12/2016 12:59

Thanks for the book. I really enjoyed it - a while since I had read a poetry anthology. My eldest baby is about to turn four but reading these poems took me right back to the mixture of feelings rushing around me when he and his sister were young. The trials of public breast feeding and irritation over pink / blue baby clothes are all too familiar.
My question: 'Is there a particular poem which you are most pleased with?


bernie77 · 07/12/2016 13:23

What an honest appraisal of motherhood. Despite initial misgivings as I'm not really a poetry lover, I'm very glad that Mumsnet gave me the opportunity to read it. As I say, not my normal type of book, but the poetry is simply brilliant, getting the point across in a direct and entertaining way, and Hollie's handling of the whole art of parenthood is masterful, dealing with the highs and lows logically, and not allowing nostalgia to cloud the issue. Anybody who has had or intends to have children should be given the chance to read it.


Mizuna · 07/12/2016 17:48

I really enjoyed reading this, the poems are both the raw and the cooked. Some read as more inseparable from the diaries than others, some stand alone brilliantly.

My DC is nearly 8 and only in reading this did I get back lots of memories of those early days and nights, because of the emotional vibrancy of the writing. It's been hard, sometimes, to feel a touch of those feelings again, they were so powerful. The writing describes the situations new mothers often find themselves in in a very evocative way.

I haven't finished reading it yet, I've not wanted to read a lot in one go, I think that's because of the power and emotions stirred. But I have a question for Hollie, not about any of that Smile.

Do you think of yourself as part of a line of poets going back into history, and if you did, would that be more about being a woman writer or a poet writing about life experiences? I wonder if it's possible to think of oneself as a writer, a poet, without it being linked to being a woman, or if that is integral to everything you write.



dalek · 07/12/2016 21:28

Thank you mumsnet for the opportunity to read this book.

It is a very unusual book for me with the poetry. I haven't finished it yet but I am enjoying the memories it brings back. My child is 16 now so those days were a little while ago but it is lovely to revisit those times.

It is a beautifully written book and I am enjoying the added dimension of the gorgeous poetry.


MummysGotMakeup · 07/12/2016 23:45

An interesting and enjoyable book that you can relate to. I liked Hollie's recollection of looking at baby bottles in the shop; I remember one of my biggest concerns being the realisation that although I could sterilise my bottles in a pan, I had no idea how I could sterilise the pan and being terrified that I was going to make my baby ill because of this!

I've put my attempt of summing up some defining moments on how my rose tinted look on being a mum differed from how it actually was but my question to Hollie is although your grandmothers would not have had the expectations imposed upon them like parents today have, they must still have had their own worries and concerns - what do you think they would have written poems about?

"Not long to go now - don't worry", she said.
I stared at the cleaner and fled back to bed
to gaze at my baby and weep at the thought
that though I saw my stomach flat, others did not!

This was the start of the dawn of the ken
that dreams and reality never would blend.
No sleepless nights! I actually felt cheated
and lied to my friends feeling sad and defeated.

Playdough and painting, stories and song,
It would all be so easy. Where did I go wrong?
Thank God for the TV, the wine and the crèche,
my vision of motherhood now starts afresh.


merliquin · 08/12/2016 00:15

Thanks for the book - I've not finished it yet. This is a book that I want to read slowly - I think I'll even feel a little bit sad when I'm done.

There is so much of first-time motherhood that I'd almost forgotten and that feels like life on a distant planet that Hollie captures so well through her poetry. In the blur of intense love, exhaustion, fear that you could or should be doing things better, there is no opportunity for reflection - becoming a mother for the first time is all-encompassing.

Now that my first and subsequent children are out of babyhood, I read Hollie's poems and remember those early days (I've fed my child in a cafe toilet, more than once) and all the things that I accepted as 'normal' which, on reflection, shouldn't be accepted at all. Mushy Mummy Baby Brain really resonated with me. It made me feel quite angry about the way women are belittled and dismissed through such apparently harmless turns of phrase - language can be so powerful!

I would've loved to have read this when my children were babies and I think every new mother should read this book.

Hollie, you have a very distinctive 'voice' as a poet. Do you think the creative process is different when you are writing a poem to be read rather than to be performed, and if so, how? Do you write any of your poems specifically with performance in mind?

Thank you.

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