A friend of mine, who has never lent me a book before, lent me How to Measure a Cow by Margaret Forster. The blurb certainly sounded interesting and I was looking forward to getting started. And I enjoyed it way more than I expected to.
Forty-something Tara is desperate to escape the past, so she changes her name and settles in a small town in the north of England. She is sure that the new house, new town and nondescript job will be just what she needs to start again.
Over the road, her elderly neighbour, Nancy, is intrigued by the newcomer and wants to know more about her. Slowly, but surely the two women start to build an unlikely friendship, but neither is quite ready to drop her guard.
But then Tara receives a letter from an old friend and finds it hard to resist the pull of her old life and everything she has left behind.
Alternating between the viewpoints of Tara and Nancy, with the occasional contribution from Tara’s old friend Claire, How to Measure a Cow gradually builds up the story of Tara and the life she was running away from. Will Tara stick with her new life, or will she go back to her old life and her old friends?
This is an atmospheric and deceptively gentle book, with a fairly dark story at its heart. The two main characters are both flawed in their way, both guarded and both desperately in need of the others’ friendship, though unable to express it for their own differing reasons.
As is so often the case, I managed to read two books with very similar themes consecutively – my previous book Friend Request was also about a woman trying to hide a guilty secret and the past catching up with her. How to Measure a Cow feels much more gentle though. It was the very last book written by Margaret Forster (an author I haven’t read before) before she died and was published after her death.
If you like stories about friendship, or a mystery that isn’t too scary, you will love How to Measure a Cow.