I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson

I Don�t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover (available in trade), 338 pages, 2002

Rating: 8/10

Reason for Reading: I happened to see it while in the library and thought I’d check it out after all the buzz it was getting in early 2003.

Synopsis: Kate is a 35-year-old triple-threat of wife, mother to two, and hedge-fund manager – and most of the threat seems to be directed inward, at her sanity. How does a woman who appears to have it all actually find the time to enjoy it all? Despite her perfectionist nature, Kate finds herself under fire from her husband, kids, and boss – all three agree she doesn’t give them enough time.

Why you should read this book: Kate’s character reads like an older, somewhat wiser version of Bridget Jones, both in Kate’s personality, and in the same choppy, harried writing style Helen Fielding perfected. The frustrations of Kate’s life will feel familiar to almost all women – who doesn’t have the pressures of having too much to do? Provokes both empathy and a few good laughs.

Why you should avoid this book: Occasionally, the book falls into the trap of mistaking prattling off complaints for plot development. Letting us see how tough Kate’s life can be is fine, but it crosses the line when it just starts to feel like filler. Editing out a good fifty pages would have made the book tighter.

Opening paragraph:

MONDAY, 1:37 A.M. How did I get here? Can someone please tell me that? Not in this kitchen, I mean in this life. It is the morning of the school carol concert and I am hitting mince pies. No, let us be quite clear about this, I am distressing mince pies, an altogether more demanding and subtle process.

Fabulous quotes:

One Saturday last autumn, I got back from a Boston trip to find Richard in the hall, all set to take our two out to a party. Emily, hair uncombed, appeared to have a dueling scar on one check – it was ketchup from lunch. Ben, meanwhile, was bent double, wearing something very small and dotted in apricot that I didn’t recognize. On closer inspection, it turned out to be an outfit belonging to one of Emily’s dolls.
When I suggested to my husband that our offspring looked as though they were going out to beg on the Underground, Rich said that if I was going to be critical I should do it myself.
I was going to be critical. I would do it myself.

I didn’t mean to describe myself as the main breadwinner at Boxing Day lunch. It just came out that way. There was a general conversation around the table about New Year’s resolutions, and Donald – upright but wistful, like Bernard Hepton in Colditz – said perhaps Katherine could work a bit less in the coming twelve months. That would have been fine – gallant, sweet, caring even – if my sister-in-law hadn’t added with a snort, ‘So the kids can pick her out in an identity parade.’

Ooof. Clearly Cheryl had had one glass of red wine too many, and what was required of me was to rise above it. But after three days of enforced wifely humility, I didn’t feel able to rise above anything. And that was when I began a sentence with the words, ‘As the main breadwinner in our house-‘ A sentence I would never finish as it happens because, when I looked at the startled faces round the table, it seemed safer to let it die away like a bugle call.

Also recommended: The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus; Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding; High Fidelity by Nick Horby.

Also by this author: I Think I Love You.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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