By Lisa Owens
Publisher: Picador, Pan Macmillan
Lisa Owens’ novel was one that I was really looking forward to read. Luckily, one of my colleagues told me she had a proof copy – the perks of working in the publishing industry, right? – and she was going to let me read it. Bless her, that made my day.
Not Working presents Claire Flannery – the heroine of the story – who has voluntarily quit her full time job in London in order to discover her true vocation. However, she soon realises that… she has no idea how to find it! All the new extra time that comes with being unemployed only encourages her to dwell on the uncertainties of her life. While everyone around her seems to have their lives entirely under control, Claire finds herself sinking under pressure and wondering where her own fell apart.
‘It’s fine,’ her grandmother says. ‘I remember what being your age was like – of course, I had four children under eight then, but modern life is different, you’ve got an awful lot on…’
Picador really knows how to promote a book and they have done amazingly well with this one. When I read the synopsis I realised that – even though I had (and have!) an awful (and lovely) lot of books to read – I was going to put everything on the side and try to find out what Claire Flannery was all about.
I saw the novel a few times at different Waterstones and I couldn’t help to admire its cover, with those unusual bright colours. The thing is when you see a book with this kind of jacket, you know it’s going to be something special. Indeed, the subject and the heroine seem to break with traditions and even the way Owens has written her book is quite peculiar.
The novel’s format presents the story through short vignettes and thoughts under headings which at first I found a little bit off-putting. However, as I settled into it, I found myself really enjoying it. It is true that a character like Claire, this kind of anti-heroine who doesn’t know what she wants and seems to be lost in the modern world, can be found in previous titles such as The Diary of Bridget Jones but I don’t agree with reviewers who have stated that Claire is the new Bridget. They are completely different characters and the reasons why they decide to quit their jobs are definitely not the same. As far as I can remember, Bridget Jones leaves her publishing job because she doesn’t want to be next to her boss Daniel after he lied to her. On the other hand, Claire leaves because she wants to try to find herself which is a completely different reason – and a better one! Whether she succeeds or not – you’ll have to find out by reading the book… of course!
Having said this, I must add that – even though I liked the book and the way the author presents the story – I was expecting so much more. It ended quite suddenly and I was left with this weird ‘is-that-it?’ kind of feeling.
So many good things were said about the novel that I genuinely thought it was going to be unique and made me laugh out loud. It didn’t. It’s a funny book, don’t get me wrong, and it’s very well written but I still cannot see what all the hype is about. Definitely a good read and something you’ll enjoy. I don’t think this book will ‘change your life’ , though. But then again… not all books are meant to do so. Some of them are meant to make you smile and have a good time.
And this is what Not Working did for me.