Book Review: “Not Mentioning Any Names” by Margaret Pearce (@SocietyofV @EasternRegional)

Not Mentioning Any Names (Ginninderra Press, 2020) by Margaret Pearce

As part of Eastern Regional Libraries’ autumn program of events (March-May 2022), local author Margaret Pearce recently launched her book Not Mentioning Any Names at the Ferntree Gully Library.

This is a quirky little book, consisting of 51 bite-sized stories about parenting (and, inevitably, grandparenting). Some of these are hilarious, others bewildering and incomprehensible, and still others philosophical and thought-provoking.

While the book was originally titled “This Motherhood Caper”, the crucial role of fatherhood is favourably discussed in the process of child raising as both parents are often reduced to “tears, tea and aspirin, hysterics, sherry, cigarettes, blunt instruments, bullying and blackmail”.

Pearce’s writing is witty, succinct, at times fierce but always funny, as she turns daily “confrontations, truces, compromises and intermittent battles” into spectacular spectacles of life in the seemingly serene suburbs.

The battles never end. As Pearce describes it: “Suitable textbooks on survival of child raising might well include guerrilla warfare, unarmed combat and, of course, communications.” Sure enough, these are battles that parents never win.

But who says the goal of parenting is to command and conquer? Reading the book, it is clear that without unending selfless love, there will be neither tender care nor tedious commitments. Beyond doubt, parenthood is the sweetest burden that most if not all of us are content to shoulder.

For example, in “Homework for Parents”, various mothers work hard to finish their children’s school projects in time. In “Mother’s Day”, as much as the mum cringes over the “terrible racket in the kitchen, the crash of crockery being broken and loud accusations and counter-accusations”, she happily admits “it is not every morning I get breakfast in bed”.

And true magic exists in finding fun through frustration. For example, in “The Lost Club”, the mother wonders what happens to all the odd gloves, socks, runners and football boots that get mislaid. In “Transport”, the father marvels at his son’s excessive use of the family car. In “The Tooth Fairy”, one childhood belief proves true. In “Five Minutes in the Life of…”, a boy enjoys being various heroes while trying to clean his teeth .

It is true that the mums and dads portrayed in the book never had to handle issues like climate change, global pandemic, threats of terrorism, and the digital divide. Parenting in the 21st century appears to be much more confusing and confronting when compared to life in the 1970s.

However, Pearce’s book remains relevant today with its focus on core values such as empathy, trust, responsibility, respect, integrity, and honesty. From one generation to the next, these universal values sustain not just individual families, but all communities, cultures and societies.

This is why Not Mentioning Any Names can engage, inform and entertain generations of parents. As readers reminisce about their own experiences with children – with fond smiles and an occasional grimace or two – they will reaffirm the fact that some things never change, even in this day and age where the only thing constant is change.

Note 1: Margaret Pearce is a member of the Society of Women Writers Victoria (@SocietyofV). More details can be found HERE.

Note 2: This book review was originally published under the title “Humorous Parenting Tales” by Ranges Trader Star Mail, May 3, 2022, P.14.

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