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Brown Owl's Guide To Life

Kate Harrisson
Shy, sweet-natured Lucy Collins is used to being pushed around. For the first eighteen years of her life, her widowed mother Judith ruled the roost. Now Lucy’s husband, her seven-year-old daughter and even Buster the cat boss her about. But her mother’s premature death leaves Lucy an orphan at the age of thirty-five. She’s devastated…but she’s also free. After a lifetime of being a disappointment to everyone, is it finally time Lucy grew up? As she clears out her mother’s rambling house, Lucy discovers a trunk full of memories…her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were all Brown Owls: capable, no-nonsense matriarchs who were the leading lights of the Girl Guide movement. They spent their spare time preparing the next generation for their roles as wives and mothers with a mixture of campfire songs, sew-on badges and reef knots. But could the old values and frontier spirit now hold the key to help Lucy make the changes she needs in her life?
This was lent to me by a friend and I was rather intrigued by the title. I was once a Brownie and thinking of a guide to life by a Brown Owl struck me as being amusing. Although perhaps I do Brown Owl’s a disservice in this, all those badges and promises probably make for a pretty decent self-help manual!
The story is based around six Brownies from the 1st Troughton Pack. The story tracks between the present day, where they are all grown up and their past together as Pixies. It transpires that there was an incident during a Pack Holiday that deeply affected them all, and in some cases ruined their friendships.
Now they are all grown up women and Brown Owl has just died leaving them all letters. The lives of these girls have gone off at different tangents and they have not all turned out as might have been predicted. The story uses flashbacks to the past and on-going present developments to reveal what happened to them all and resolve some of the issues they live with.
The central character, Lucy, was Brown Owl’s daughter and she feels strongly that she has not lived up to her mother’s hopes and expectations of her. Lucy’s marriage is falling apart and she is still longing to find out about the Father she idolises, but never actually really knew. All this comes tumbling to the surface in the wake of her mother’s death and leaves Lucy trying to recover and decide what she wants from her life.
Lucy’s best friend Terri was also a Brownie and is now (she feels) the oldest virgin in Troughton. She has been the strong sensible one all her life and is training to be a Vicar, but losing Brown Owl, who was the Mother she always wanted sends her on a new journey of self-discovery. The other four women from the Pixie Six are more minor characters, but none-the-less interesting. The story uses them all to look at how women are affected by aging, getting married having children and losing those they love. Even getting fatter has its part in this tale! So much of the novel reflects how women relate to each other and in particular how we are affected by our mother/daughter relationships in both their good and bad points.
Verdict: I so enjoyed this book. It is well written and food for thought. It has humour and sadness, a bit of romance and best of all characters that held your attention. A great read.
Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Orion
Publication Date: December 2006
Format: Paperback
Pages: 416
Genre: Chick Lit
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: British Book


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