The Cows Review, by Dawn O’Porter: a Ground-Breaking Feminist Novel

Looking for a new book choice that ticks every box? The Cows, by Dawn O’Porter, is a feminist novel which might do just that for you…

These boxing gloves for women represent the power they hold

Looking for your next book pick? Boy do I have a book for you… The Cows, by Dawn O’Porter, may just be one of my favourite books I’ve read this month so far. I know right, it’s a big claim, but I was hooked from beginning to end.

If you love a story full of plot twists, cringeyness, laughter, tears, shock, and everything in between, this story leaves no stone unturned. It’s a real page-turner.

To discover more about the characters, plot, and predominant themes, you came to the right place. If you want to discover if this is the next book for your reading list, don’t go anywhere…

The Cows Characters

Dawn O’Porter‘s story follows the tale of three women – Tara, Stella and Cam – each leading very different lives. Each of them face a number of problems we women may all face in our lifetime, including scorn, judgement, tragedy, and dilemmas. So, let’s introduce them, and the supporting characters, here:

  • Tara: as a talented documentary-maker, Tara has made her way to the top in a male-dominated industry, and is constantly reminded of this by her male colleagues, daily. She is a single-mother, and receives help from her parents to look after her young girl.
  • Stella: having been through an awful lot in her life, Stella is perhaps a little unhinged. She works as a personal assistant to the famous photographer, Jason, but her past never lets go. Having had her twin sister and mother both die from cancer, cervical and breast respectively, she is faced with an unknown and scary future. Will she ever be able to have the kid she so desires?
  • Cam: unlike our other women, Cam is self-employed, having worked her way to the top of the blogging industry. She blogs about all things life, and isn’t afraid to have her voice heard.
  • Annie: Annie is Tara’s young daughter, who is effected by her mother’s career-driven background. Mums can certainly be cruel, and their judgement of Tara means Annie is often left out by their kids.
  • Jason: Stella’s boss, and famous photographer, who is absolutely desperate to become someone’s doting boyfriend. Because of this forwardness, he is usually turned down by most women he meets.

The Cows, by Dawn O’Porter, Plot

Now that we know a little more about our main characters, the time has come where I give you a little overview of what each of them go through. Let me tell you that neither road is easy, and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by any of them…

The Cows Plot: the No Spoilers Version

Three lives intertwine, as our characters navigate the pitfalls of living the world as women. As each of them make their way through life, love, drama, and upset, they may just inspire each other in more ways than they can imagine. Can their stories join as one, so they can empower one another to get through everything life throws at them?

This sign saying "a rising tide lifts all boats" represents the characters in The Cows supporting each other

The Cows Plot in Detail: SPOILERS ALERT

Here, I’ve provided a more in-depth plot, so if you want to get a full taste of the book before you dive in, keep reading. But, if you don’t want anything spoiled for you, scroll to the next subheading about the prominent story themes

Tara’s Tale

Tara begins by finishing filming her riveting documentary about sexual abuse in the workplace. Returning to the male-dominated office, she is mocked and ridiculed, despite her clear ability to ace her job. But, it’s clear she’ll never be as respected as they are due to her responsibilities as a mother, which take her out of the office dead on time, most days.

However, the ridicule doesn’t stop there as, when she heads to the school gates, she is ostracised by the other mothers for being less of a stereotypical mother. Having decided to keep Annie after a one-night-stand, Annie has never had a father figure, and her career means she isn’t the most attentive. That said, Tara’s scornful attitude to the other “non-working” mums perhaps doesn’t quite help her situation.

Nevertheless, Tara decides to hit the dating scene, with the strong purpose to find a father for Annie. As luck would have it, she meets the perfect guy, Jason, on the first try (albeit not the guy she matched with on the dating app), and they hit it off right away. So much so, that they almost head home together, but Tara refuses, as she wants to do this right.

Parting ways with just each other’s phone numbers, they begin to text. But, when Jason’s phone is knocked down a drain, he has no way of telling her his feelings, and Tara ends up obsessing over the perfect guy that never texted back.

But, the story doesn’t end there…

After the erotic departure with Jason, Tara is left feeling all hot and bothered on her train journey back home. Heading into the train cart, she looks around and realises no one is on the carriage, so she begins to touch herself.

Right when she begins to climax, the train pulls into the station, and she realises she wasn’t alone. Opening her eyes, she sees a man filming her, and her worst nightmare is realised. On waking up the next morning, the video has gone completely viral, and she is labelled “Walthamstow Wank Woman”.

With this label, people begin to recognise her on the streets, the police pay a visit, her and her family are humiliated, she loses her job, and the world around her begins to cave in. Can she emerge out of this unbelievable rabbit hole she’s sunk into?

Stella’s Story

As we’ve mentioned, Stella has had a pretty traumatic past, having dealt with both her mother’s death and her sister’s death, from cancer. This means she has to make the terrible decision of having her breasts and uterus removed, as her chances are much higher now.

When her and her boyfriend have to make the decision to get pregnant now, or freeze Stella’s eggs for future use so she can have the surgery, things don’t go to plan. Her boyfriend decides it’s too much, and leaves her without the prospect of being able to give birth herself. Time is running out…

So, who’s the one guy in her life that she can seduce to have her baby? Jason. The story unravels as Stella does everything to stop Jason getting in contact with Tara, so she can have him all to herself. What could go wrong?

The Future is Female is a great saying to represent the book, The Cows

Cam’s Calamity

Meanwhile, Cam, famous feminist blogger, is going about her daily life, sleeping with whoever she wants, and living her unmarried, no babies life the way she wants. Despite her family all living the traditional lives of marriage and kids, this has never been what she wants.

When she becomes the voice of women all over the country who want the same as her, Cam faces a myriad of reviews. Namely, Stella uses Cam as her virtual punchbag, emailing her abuse, and telling her of her master plan to seduce Jason. Meanwhile, she hears the story of “Walthamstow Wank Woman”, and is perhaps the one woman who will support her through this.

But, what will Cam do to help Tara and hinder Stella?

Prominent Themes Addressed by Dawn O’Porter in The Cows

As we’ve seen, The Cows touches on a huge number of important topics. These not only riveted me, and kept me wanting more, some also fell close to my heart, and I’m sure they will for you too. Some of these hot topics include:

Single Motherhood

Being a single mother and a career woman, Tara simply can’t win. She is left out from the mums at the school gates, and isn’t respected by her male colleagues, who will never see her as an equal when she does the school run each day.

Although this is certainly the reality many single mothers face, let’s not forget how awesome they are! Whether their situation was accidental or on purpose, they’ve been through so much to not only support their kids, but to support themselves. It’s fantastic to see such a powerful mother figure, who overcomes mountains, and yet comes out on top with her little girl.

Not Wanting to Have Children

Cam is constantly berated by her family for not wanting to have children, and is absolutely the odd one out. Her mother and sisters can’t quite wrap their heads around it, and it begs the questions why not?

If we maintain the mindset of “when I have kids” rather than “if I have kids”, doesn’t that just reduce us women to baby-making machines? We’re more than that, and Cam represents this, even for the women who might want to have kids in future.

Public Masturbation

Okay, this one was a shocker when I read it, and it certainly brought with it a lot of questions. After all, if a man were to have been caught doing that, I think the reaction would’ve have been a little more severe; perhaps jail time would be on the cards. I guess it’s the difference between the discretion men and women can practice whilst doing so – it’s a very different story for men.

Ultimately, Tara wasn’t doing it to be voyeuristic; she was satisfying her needs when she thought she was alone. Isn’t that simply the same as doing it in your bedroom?

I’d never read a story with this sort of dilemma, and the fallout she experienced from it made me cringe in so many ways. It was pretty amazing to witness how Tara handled it all, facing up to what she had done, even in front of her family. A very interesting and intriguing plot line, for sure.

The Cows makes me question why we're still fighting for female equality

The Ethics Behind Stealing Sperm

Stella’s plan to seduce Jason for his sperm, and nothing else, is pretty radical, and something I can’t say I’ve read about or seen on TV before. The whole situation was pretty balmy, but it really demonstrated her desperation to give birth naturally. It just goes to show the lengths some women will go to, and the heartbreak it can cause to not be able to have babies the way you want.

Women in the Workplace

As we’ve mentioned, Tara is not only berated for her mothering skills, but also can’t win in the workplace. It’s no wonder that there’s a pay gap; when many women are landed with the predominant care duties. It means so many women who have the necessary skills to go far are often more limited than their male counterparts.

It’s an issue which is very pervasive, even now. This is why it’s so fantastic to see a book discussing it in a way that’s pretty realistic, in some workplaces. That’s certainly not to say that everywhere harvests a culture of disrespect but, unfortunately, it still goes on, and this needs to be known.

Cancer in Women

We also get a little insight into the reality of many women who have to lose their breasts to cancer. Stella talks a lot about how much she loves her boobs and, although she’s more concerned about the reality of not having kids naturally, her boobs are also a big factor. They’re an identity thing, so it was really interesting to hear the thoughts of a woman dealing with this. It’s something I’ve never really been exposed to before.

Women are Damned if They Do and Damned if They Don’t

The list truly does go on! The main message throughout the story was that women are damned if they do and damned if they don’t:

  • Single mother acing childcare and her career? Disrespected by work colleagues and fellow mothers.
  • Independent blogger wanting to empower women who don’t want kids? The voice of the people, but isolated from her family.
  • Woman who desperately wants children that she’ll do anything for it? Crazy bitch!

My Overall Thoughts on Dawn O’Porter’s The Cows

I absolutely adored this book. Not only was it riveting, from start to finish, and I truly cared about each character, every loose end was tied. Sure, there were some unexpected surprises along the way, but I adored how O’Porter covered so many topics (shown above) in just one novel!

As a feminist and blogger myself, I identified mostly with Cam, however, I have no doubt that most women will see themselves in at least one of the characters. Each had a story to tell, and one that wasn’t boring in the slightest. Granted, I looked forward to some stories more than others, but each tale provided shock, cringe, horror, and pride at every turn.

Seeing how each character overcame their worries and strife, and came out stronger in the end, was fantastic to see. I just loved how each character gradually became connected, bit by bit, and how it ultimately became a story of girl power, which you know I love to see.

This sign saying Girls Just Wanna Have Fundamental Rights shows a great feminist quote

Ready to Get Reading?

So, would I recommend? Abso-f*%$ing-lutely.

I loved this book, and would totally suggest you download it, for free, on the Amazon Prime reading library. Go check it out, and let me know your thoughts, in the comments down below. I’d love to hear if you loved it as much as I did.

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