New Release Book Review: How to Be Perfect by Holly Wainwright

How to Be Perfect…

About the Book:

The bestselling author of The Mummy Bloggers is back with another page-turning, rip-roaring story about mums, phones and the cult of self-improvement.
In the rolling green hills of Australia’s hippest hinterland, a new guru is blogging about her breakfast.

ELLE CAMPBELL is back, holed up in an exclusive retreat where women pay thousands to mimic her extreme lifestyle, or die trying. But who’s bankrolling Elle’s new empire? And why are her two tiny sons suddenly absent from her glossy public image?

ABI BLACK just wants to marry her true love under a tree in the garden on New Year’s Eve. But her ex-husband is building a financial cult in the shed, Elle is looming and her teenage daughter’s YouTube channel is gaining followers for all the wrong reasons. The wedding might have to wait.

FRANCES GRAHAM has a colicky newborn, an absent husband and a WhatsApp mothers’ group that’s giving her anxiety. But she’s certain that if she can just be more like those fitmums on Instagram, things can only get better. And surely, if she can scrape enough money together to make it to Elle’s retreat, everything in her life will be just . . . perfect.

Through a world of fake gurus, green smoothies and bad influencers, How to Be Perfect follows Elle, Abi and Frankie into the cult of self-improvement that’s taking over your phone . . . and your breakfast.

My Thoughts:

So good. So, SO good! I really enjoyed The Mummy Bloggers, but How to Be Perfect is the next level up. If you thought it didn’t get much worse than Elle’s shenanigans in The Mummy Bloggers, wait until you find out what she’s up to now!

“‘It’s this shit right here – I had to subscribe to this, with actual money. And people do. They hand over hard-earned cash, and for what? For her to show me naked pictures, share ridiculous recipes no one can follow without taking out a bank loan, and spout a lot of psycho-babble about being your best self. I mean…’ Abi put her head on the table. ‘It makes me…want to hit someone.’”

Elle has reinvented herself as an ‘Elle-ness Guru’, has a new empire, a new man and…yep, a new little family to blog about. Holly Wainwright has successfully created one the most contemptible women in contemporary fiction. But along with all of the unbelievable antics and moments of ‘she really wouldn’t sink that low’, is a valuable lesson in self-respect that packs a punch.

Along with Elle, Abi and the rest of the blended family return, all living ‘happily’ together on the farm. With a million things going on, and at least half of them going wrong, Abi is as intense as ever, but I loved her even more this time around. Parenting is a big focus for Abi, juggling it alongside her commitment to Grace, which is increasingly taking a back burner. I enjoyed how Holly offered many perspectives throughout; it kept the story ticking over at a nice pace with plenty of intrigue and ‘they just did what?!’ moments to keep you reading ‘just one more chapter’. Abi’s wisdom never fails to hit the right mark for me, but this pearler, really nailed it:

“So much of parenting, Abi thought, was the particular pain of resisting the urge to slap your children. It starts when they’re little, and they are insisting that shoes do, in fact, go on their hands, not their feet, and there are two minutes until you need to leave the house, and it’s raining. And it evolves through the teenage years to a place like this – where your teenage daughter has been psychoanalysing you with her teenage boyfriend, and she presents you with a list of your shortcomings.”

A new character that features in this story is Elle fan, Francis, feeling at a low point in her life as a new mum, newly exhausted, and newly disillusioned. She has fallen victim to Elle’s fake lifestyle and is convinced that ‘Elle-ness’ will lead to wellness and fix all of the many problems she perceives exists within her life. Frances is a wonderfully authentic character, who I was filled with frustration and empathy for, in equal measure. While I do remember clearly those unhinged days with a new baby, Frances’ WhatsApp mothers’ group had me counting my blessings that my baby days are long over. This was helicopter parenting taken to a whole new level! These women were just inventing stuff to be anxious over, no wonder Frances couldn’t cope! Throw in the needless comparison with the lies told on social media by Elle, and those like her, it’s little wonder these women constantly feel as though they just can’t get it together enough.

“All those hours of thinking about that birth. About what could possibly be wrong with her, with Frances, that she couldn’t have done that, too – just got herself in the zone and pushed out her baby like a real woman. And all those women out there who felt the same way…”

All in all, I found this novel highly entertaining. I am pretty much the most uninterested in wellness person you could ever meet, so poking fun at this industry really suited me to a tee! The only time I ever go into the wellness aisle of the supermarket is to buy my processed sugared breakfast cereal which just happens to sit across from it. I am suspicious of tea that isn’t black and enhanced by milk. Fad foods are not my thing and unless a smoothie has recognisable fruit in it, and preferably ice cream, it’s unlikely I will drink it. Each to their own, but for the most part, I think the wellness industry is a con and the example of Elle, while to a certain degree is extremist (and ever so possibly offensive to those who embrace the current trend of wellness consumerism), is also probably fairly spot on. Damaging to your bank balance and damaging to your soul when you don’t get the life your guru seems to have so effortlessly. Well done Holly Wainwright for hitting the proverbial nail squarely on the head. An absolutely excellent book club choice in my opinion and an absolute riot.


Thanks is extended to Allen & Unwin for providing me with a copy of How to Be Perfect for review.

About the Author:

Holly Wainwright is a former-Mancunian Sydneysider who came to Australia as a footloose traveller more than 20 years ago. Since then, Holly has had a long career as a journalist and editor, originally in travel and celebrity magazines and now online. She’s been working in digital media for three years, most recently as Head of Content at Mamamia. She hosts two podcasts: This Glorious Mess and Mamamia Out Loud, has two small children, lives by the ocean and wishes there were four more hours in every day.

How to Be Perfect

Published by Allen & Unwin

Released on 29th August 2018

Also Available:

The Mummy Bloggers

Published by Allen & Unwin

Read my review here

5 thoughts on “New Release Book Review: How to Be Perfect by Holly Wainwright

  1. Pingback: My Reading Life: #aww2018 Challenge Checkpoint 5 | Theresa Smith Writes

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