Synopses & Reviews
Hilarity and tenderness abound in this novel narrated in pages torn from the diary of one Venetia Summers, a thirty-something divorced mother of three who resides in rural England and is owner of, among other things, controlling shares in her ex-husband’s pet mortuary and numerous pairs of oddly colored Wellingtons.
While Venetia’s life may not be as glamorous as the one she left behind in the city ten years ago, it certainly isn’t dull. She has two exuberant young boys and one splendid baby girl–known simply as The Beauty–to feed and outfit and keep happy. Other responsibilities include upkeep of a lovely but ramshackle old house, complete with a garden growing with wild abandon, and the care of a variety of bloomered bantam hens. Then there’s her mother, sometimes helpful and supportive but more often busy tossing back vodka and smoking cigarettes; a rather cute but presumptuous bathroom contractor and his oversexed Labrador; and various other friends, relations and country characters who dart in and out of Venetia’s life, wreaking havoc along the way.
Fortunately for her, Venetia is the sort who can find beauty in the surrounding mayhem, and fortunately for us, she records it all with wry wit and great verve, sharing the joys and sometimes dubious pleasures of raising a family in the English countryside.
"An entertaining celebration of family life with all its highs, lows and eccentricities. It puts Barker firmly in the camp of interesting female novelists who entertain as much as they inform." The Times (London)
When Venetia Summers abandoned her lively London life for marriage and a move out of town, it seemed that her future was all set. But a decade later her husband walks out, and suddenly she's a single mother of three with no particular skills, living in the sticks, calling upon all her wit and resourcefulness to hold together her newly lopsided family. Hens Dancing follows Venetia's life for the next year as she wages everyday battles -- the children are temperamental, the house and garden are badly in need of repair, the bathroom renovation is a nightmare, and there's never enough money. But there are consolations: the kaleidoscope loveliness of the Norfolk seasons, a houseful of animals, nighttime picnics, the regal serenity of Venetia's baby daughter -- called simply the Beauty -- and a family closeness that has hitherto escaped them. Like Bridget Jones's Diary, this novel has the word-of-mouth appeal of a truly funny, intelligently told story that takes you deep into someone else's life.
Hilarity and tenderness abound in this novel narrated in
Hens Dancing is an irresistible novel in which wry, thirty-something Venetia Summers chronicles her chaotic life through the course of a year.
It isn't easy to keep things running smoothly in a ramshackle farmhouse in the English countryside. There are the children who need comforting, new clothes, and rides to school. To say nothing of the tribulations caused by an exhusband who operates a pet mortuary, and a mother who hides Bloody Mary miniatures and cigarettes in the grass at Easter. But there are those moments that make it all worthwhile: an unexpected crow of joy from the youngest, a little flirtation with the plumber. With intelligence and wit, Barker gives us an intimate look into the lives of very real, deeply funny characters.
About the Author
\Rafaella Barker writes a regular column for the English magazine Country Life. She lives with her husband and three children in Norfolk, in rural England.