NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Part love story, part workplace drama, this sharply observed novel is a witty critique of the false judgments we make in a social-media-obsessed world. New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella has written her most timely novel yet.
Everywhere Katie Brenner looks, someone else is living the life she longs for, particularly her boss, Demeter Farlowe. Demeter is brilliant and creative, lives with her perfect family in a posh townhouse, and wears the coolest clothes. Katie’s life, meanwhile, is a daily struggle—from her dismal rental to her oddball flatmates to the tense office politics she’s trying to negotiate. No wonder Katie takes refuge in not-quite-true Instagram posts, especially as she's desperate to make her dad proud.
Then, just as she’s finding her feet—not to mention a possible new romance—the worst happens. Demeter fires Katie. Shattered but determined to stay positive, Katie retreats to her family’s farm in Somerset to help them set up a vacation business. London has never seemed so far away—until Demeter unexpectedly turns up as a guest. Secrets are spilled and relationships rejiggered, and as the stakes for Katie’s future get higher, she must question her own assumptions about what makes for a truly meaningful life.
Sophie Kinsella is celebrated for her vibrant, relatable characters and her great storytelling gifts. Now she returns with all of the wit, warmth, and wisdom that are the hallmarks of her bestsellers to spin this fresh, modern story about presenting the perfect life when the reality is far from the truth.
Praise for My Not So Perfect Life
“A sparkling, witty novel about social media and the stories we tell ourselves.”—People (Book of the Week)
“The soul of this book concerns female friendship. . . . What ensues has a touch of real wisdom [and] will satisfy Kinsella diehards as well as new readers.”—The Washington Post
“You’ll relate hard and root harder for Londoner Katie, whose quarterlife crisis feels even worse thanks to the Insta-perfect people all around her.”—Cosmopolitan
“A joy to read . . . Themes of friendship, love and living your true life rise to the top.”—USA Today
“[There are ] many laugh-out-loud hilarious moments in this feel-good novel about social media and personal branding, and the hectic realities behind our perfect online lives.”—Bustle
“Pure escapist fun.”—PopSugar
“Sophie Kinsella keeps her finger on the cultural pulse, while leaving me giddy with laughter. I loved it.”—Jojo Moyes
“Katie is a winning heroine. . . . Kinsella creates characters that are well-rounded, quirky, and a complete joy to read.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Driven by Katie’s witty observations and numerous missteps as she attempts to reconcile various aspects of her identity, this novel is smartly satirical and entertaining.”—Publishers Weekly
“Another outstanding novel . . . a perfect combination of fun, laughable moments rounded out with some deep-seated family and relationship issues.”—Booklist
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.20(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Sophie Kinsella is the author of the bestselling Shopaholic series, as well as the novels Can You Keep a Secret?, The Undomestic Goddess, Remember Me?, Twenties Girl, I’ve Got Your Number, and Wedding Night. She lives between London and the country.
Date of Birth:December 12, 1969
Place of Birth:London, England
Education:B.A. in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, Oxford University, 1990; M.Mus., King's College, London, 1992
Read an Excerpt
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***
Copyright © 2017 Sophie Kinsella
MY NOT SO PERFECT LIFE / SOPHIE KINSELLA
First: It could be worse. As commutes go, it could be a lot worse, and I must keep remembering this. Second: It’s worth it. I want to live in London; I want to do this; and commuting is part of the deal. It’s part of the London experience, like Tate Modern.
(Actually, it’s not much like Tate Modern. Bad example.)
My dad always says: If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay under the porch. And I want to run with the big dogs. That’s why I’m here.
Anyway, my twenty-minute walk to the station is fine. Enjoyable, even. The gray December air is like iron in my chest, but I feel good. The day’s begun. I’m on my way.
My coat’s pretty warm, even though it cost £9.99 and came from the flea market. It had a label in it, Christin Bior, but I cut it out as soon as I got home. You can’t work where I work and have Christin Bior in your coat. You could have a genuine vintage Christian Dior label. Or something Japanese. Or maybe no label because you make your clothes yourself out of retro fabrics that you source at Alfies Antiques.
But not Christin Bior.
As I get near Catford Bridge, I start to feel a knot of tension. I really don’t want to be late today. My boss has started throwing all sorts of hissy fits about people “swanning in at all times,” so I left an extra twenty minutes early, in case it was a bad day.
I can already see: It’s a god-awful day.
They’ve been having a lot of problems on our line recently and keep canceling trains with no warning. Trouble is, in London rush hour, you can’t just cancel trains. What are all the people who were planning to get on that train supposed to do? Evaporate?
As I pass through the ticket barrier I can already see the answer. They’re crowded on the platform, squinting up at the information screen, jostling for position, peering down the line, scowling at one another and ignoring one another, all at the same time.
Oh God. They must have canceled at least two trains, because this looks like three trainloads of people, all waiting for the next one, clustered near the edge of the platform at strategic points. It’s mid-December, but there’s no Christmas spirit here. Everyone’s too tense and cold and Monday-morning-ish. The only festive touch consists of a few miserable-looking fairy lights and a series of warning announcements about holiday transport.
Screwing up my nerve, I join the throng and exhale in relief as a train pulls into the station. Not that I’ll get on this train (Get on the first train? That would be ridiculous). There are people squashed up against the steamy windows, and as the doors slide open, only one woman gets off, looking pretty crumpled as she tries to extricate herself.
But even so, the crowd surges forward, and somehow a load of people insert themselves inside the train and it pulls away, and I’m that much farther forward on the platform. Now I just have to keep my place and not let that scrawny guy with gelled hair edge in front of me. I’ve taken out my earbuds so I can listen for announcements and stay poised and vigilant.
Commuting in London is basically warfare. It’s a constant campaign of claiming territory; inching forward; never relaxing for a moment. Because if you do, someone will step past you. Or step on you.
Exactly eleven minutes later, the next train pulls in. I head forward with the crowd, trying to block out the soundtrack of angry exclamations: “Can you move down?” “There’s room inside!” “They just need to move down!”
I’ve noticed that people inside trains have completely different expressions from people on platforms—especially the ones who have managed to get a seat. They’re the ones who got over the mountains to Switzerland. They won’t even look up. They maintain this guilty, defiant refusal to engage: I know you’re out there; I know it’s awful and I’m safe inside, but I suffered too, so let me just read my Kindle without bloody guilt-tripping me, OK?
People are pushing and pushing, and someone’s actually shoving me—I can feel fingers on my back—and suddenly I’m stepping onto the train floor. Now I need to grab onto a pole or a handle—anything—and use it as leverage. Once your foot’s on the train, you’re in.
A man way behind me seems very angry—I can hear extra- loud shouting and cursing. And suddenly there’s a ground- swell behind me, like a tsunami of people. I’ve only experienced this a couple of times, and it’s terrifying. I’m being pushed forward without even touching the ground, and as the train doors close I end up squeezed between two guys—one in a suit and one in a tracksuit—and a girl eating a panini.
We’re so tightly wedged that she’s holding her panini about three inches away from my face. Every time she takes a bite, I get a waft of pesto. But I studiously ignore it. And the girl. And the men. Even though I can feel the tracksuit guy’s warm thigh against mine and count the stubbly hairs on his neck. As the train starts moving we’re constantly bumped against one another, but no one even makes eye contact. I think if you make eye contact on the tube, they call the police or something.
To distract myself, I try to plan the rest of my journey. When I get to Waterloo East, I’ll check out which tube line is running best. I can do Jubilee-District (takes ages) or Jubilee-Central (longer walk at the other end) or Overground (even longer walk at the other end).
And, yes, if I’d known I was going to end up working in Chiswick, I wouldn’t have chosen to rent in Catford. But when I first came to London, it was to do an internship in east London. (They called it “Shoreditch” in the ad. It so wasn’t Shoreditch.) Catford was cheap and it wasn’t too far, and now I just can’t face west London prices, and the commute’s not that bad—
“Aargh!” I shriek as the train jolts and I’m thrown violently forward. The girl has been thrown too, and her hand shoots up toward my face and before I know it, my open mouth has landed on the end of her panini.
I’m so shocked, I can’t react. My mouth is full of warm, doughy bread and melted mozzarella. How did this even happen?
Instinctively my teeth clench shut, a move I immediately regret. Although . . . what else was I supposed to do? Nervously, I raise my eyes to hers, my mouth still full.
“Sorry,” I mumble, but it comes out “Obble.”
“What the fuck?” The girl addresses the carriage incredulously. “She’s stealing my breakfast!”
My head’s sweating with stress. This is bad. Bad. What do I do now? Bite off the panini? (Not good.) Just let it fall out of my mouth? (Even worse. Urgh.) There’s no good way out of this situation, none.
At last, I bite fully through the panini, my face burning with embarrassment. Now I have to chew my way through a mouthful of someone else’s claggy bread, with everyone watching.
“I’m really sorry,” I say awkwardly to the girl, as soon as I’ve managed to swallow. “I hope you enjoy the rest.”
“I don’t want it now.” She glares at me. “It’s got your germs on it.”
“Well, I don’t want your germs either! It wasn’t my fault; I fell on it.”
“You fell on it,” she echoes, so skeptically that I stare at her. “Yes! Of course! I mean, what do you think—that I did that on purpose?”
“Who knows?” She puts a protective hand around the rest of her panini, as though I might launch myself at her and bite another chunk off. “All kinds of weird people in London.”
“I’m not weird!”
“You can ‘fall’ on me anytime, love,” puts in the guy in the tracksuit with a smirk. “Only don’t chew,” he adds, and laughter comes from all around the carriage.
My face flames even redder, but I’m not going to react. In fact, this conversation is over.
For the next fifteen minutes I gaze sternly ahead, trying to exist in my own little bubble. At Waterloo East, we all disgorge from the train, and I breathe in the cold, fumey air with relief. I stride as quickly as I can to the Underground, opt for Jubilee-District, and join the crowd round the door. As I do so, I glance at my watch and quell a sigh. I’ve been traveling for forty-five minutes already, and I’m not even nearly there.
As someone steps on my foot with a stiletto, I have a sudden flashback to Dad pushing open our kitchen door, step- ping outside, spreading his arms wide to take in the view of fields and endless sky, and saying, “Shortest commute in the world, darling. Shortest commute in the world.” When I was little, I had no idea what he meant, but now—
“Move down! Will you move down?” A man beside me on the platform is yelling so loudly, I flinch. The Underground train has arrived and there’s the usual battle between the people inside the carriage, who think it’s totally crammed, and the people outside, who are measuring the empty spaces with forensic, practiced eyes and reckon you could fit another twenty people in, easy.
Finally I get on the tube, and fight my way off at Westminster, and wait for the District line, then chug along to Turnham Green. As I get out of the tube station, I glance at my watch and start running. Shit. I barely have ten minutes.
Our office is a large pale building called Phillimore House.
As I get near, I slow to a walk, my heart still pounding. My left heel has a massive blister on it, but the main thing is, I’ve made it. I’m on time. Magically, there’s a lift waiting, and I step in, trying to smooth down my hair, which flew in all directions as I was pegging it down Chiswick High Road. The whole commute took an hour and twenty minutes in all, which actually could be worse—
“Wait!” An imperious voice makes me freeze. Across the lobby is striding a familiar figure. She has long legs, high- heeled boots, expensive highlights, a biker jacket, and a short skirt in an orange textured fabric which makes every other garment in the lift look suddenly old and obvious. Especially my £8.99 black jersey skirt.
She has amazing eyebrows. Some people are just granted amazing eyebrows, and she’s one of them.
“Horrendous journey,” she says as she gets into the lift. Her voice is husky, coppery, grown-up sounding. It’s a voice that knows stuff, that doesn’t have time for fools. She jabs the floor number with a manicured finger and we start to rise. “Absolutely horrendous,” she reiterates. “The lights would not change at the Chiswick Lane junction. It took me twenty- five minutes to get here from home. Twenty-five minutes!”
She gives me one of her swooping, eagle-like gazes, and I realize she’s waiting for a response.
“Oh,” I say feebly. “Poor you.”
The lift doors open and she strides out. A moment later I follow, watching her haircut fall perfectly back into shape with every step and breathing in that distinctive scent she wears (bespoke, created for her at Annick Goutal in Paris on her fifth-wedding-anniversary trip).
This is my boss. This is Demeter. The woman with the perfect life.
I’m not exaggerating. When I say Demeter has the perfect life, believe me, it’s true. Everything you could want out of life, she has. Job, family, general coolness. Tick, tick, tick. Even her name. It’s so distinctive, she doesn’t need to bother with her surname (Farlowe). She’s just Demeter. Like Madonna. “Hi,” I’ll hear her saying on the phone, in that confident, louder-than-average voice of hers. “It’s De-meeee-ter.”
She’s forty-five and she’s been executive creative director at Cooper Clemmow for just over a year. Cooper Clemmow is a branding and strategy agency, and we have some pretty big clients—therefore Demeter’s a pretty big deal. Her office is full of awards, and framed photos of her with illustrious people, and displays of products she’s helped to brand.
She’s tall and slim and has shiny brunette hair and, as I already mentioned, amazing eyebrows. I don’t know what she earns, but she lives in Shepherd’s Bush in this stunning house which apparently she paid over two million for—my friend Flora told me.
Flora also told me that Demeter had her sitting-room floor imported from France and it’s reclaimed oak parquet and cost a fortune. Flora’s the closest in rank to me—she’s a creative associate—and she’s a constant source of gossip about Demeter.
I even went to look at Demeter’s house once, not because I’m a sad stalker, but because I happened to be in the area and I knew the address, and, you know, why not check out your boss’s house if you get the chance? (OK, full disclosure: I only knew the street name. I googled the number of the house when I got there.)
Of course, it’s heart-achingly tasteful. It looks like a house in a magazine. It is a house in a magazine. It’s been profiled in Living etc, with Demeter standing in her all-white kitchen, looking elegant and creative in a retro-print top.
I stood and stared at it for a while. Not exactly lusting—it was more wistful than that. Wisting. The front door is a gorgeous gray-green—Farrow & Ball or Little Greene, I’m sure— with an old-looking lion’s-head knocker and elegant pale-gray stone steps leading up to it. The rest of the house is pretty impressive too—all painted window frames and slatted blinds and a glimpse of a wooden tree house in the back garden— but it was the front door that mesmerized me. And the steps. Imagine having a set of beautiful stone steps to descend every day, like a princess in a fairy tale. You’d start every morning off feeling fabulous.
Two cars on the front forecourt. A gray Audi and a black Volvo SUV, all shiny and new. Everything Demeter has is either shiny and new and on-trend (designer juicing machine) or old and authentic and on-trend (huge antique wooden necklace that she got in South Africa). I think “authentic” might be Demeter’s favorite word in the whole world; she uses it about thirty times a day.
Demeter is married, of course, and she has two children, of course: a boy called Hal and a girl called Coco. She has zillions of friends she’s known “forever” and is always going to parties and events and design awards. Sometimes she’ll sigh and say it’s her third night out that week and exclaim, “Glutton for punishment!” as she changes into her Miu Miu shoes. (I take quite a lot of her Net-A-Porter packaging to recycling for her, so I know what labels she wears. Miu Miu. Marni in the sale. Dries van Noten. Also quite a lot of Zara.) But then, as she’s heading out, her eyes will start sparkling and the next thing, the photos are all over Cooper Clemmow’s Facebook page and Twitter account and everywhere: Demeter in a cool black top (probably Helmut Lang; she likes him too), holding a wineglass and beaming with famous designer types and being perfect.
And, here’s the thing: I’m not envious. Not exactly. I don’t want to be Demeter. I don’t want her things. I mean, I’m only twenty-six; what would I do with a Volvo SUV?
But when I look at her, I feel this pinprick of . . . some- thing, and I think: Could that be me? Could that ever be me? When I’ve earned it, could I have Demeter’s life? It’s not just the things but the confidence. The style. The sophistication. The connections. If it took me twenty years I wouldn’t mind—in fact, I’d be ecstatic! If you told me: Guess what, if you work hard, in twenty years’ time you’ll be leading that life, I’d put my head down right now and get to it.
It’s impossible, though. It could never happen. People talk about “ladders” and “career structures” and “rising through the ranks,” but I can’t see any ladder leading me to Demeter’s life, however hard I work.
I mean, two million pounds for a house? Two million?
I worked it out once. Just suppose a bank ever lent me that kind of money—which they wouldn’t—on my current salary, it would take me 193.4 years to pay it off (and, you know, live).
When that number appeared on my calculator screen I actually laughed out loud a bit hysterically. People talk about the generation gap. Generation chasm, more like. Generation Grand Canyon. There isn’t any ladder big enough to stretch from my place in life to Demeter’s place in life, not without something extraordinary happening, like the lottery, or rich parents, or some genius website idea that makes my fortune. (Don’t think I’m not trying. I spend every night attempting to invent a new kind of bra, or low-calorie caramel. No joy yet.) So anyway. I can’t aim for Demeter’s life, not exactly. But I can aim for some of it. The achievable bits. I can watch her, study her. I can learn how to be like her.
And also, crucially, I can learn how to be not like her.
Because, didn’t I mention? She’s a nightmare. She’s perfect and she’s a nightmare. Both.
I’m just powering up my computer when Demeter comes striding into our open-plan office, sipping her soy latte. “People,” she says. “People, listen up.”
This is another of Demeter’s favorite words: “people.” She comes into our space and says, “People,” in that drama-school voice, and we all have to stop what we’re doing, as though there’s going to be an important group announcement. When, in fact, what she wants is something very specific that only one person knows, but since she can barely remember which of us does what, or even what our names are, she has to ask everyone.
All right, this is a slight exaggeration. But not much. I’ve never met anyone as terrible at remembering names as Demeter. Flora told me once that Demeter actually has a real visual problem, some facial-recognition thing, but she won’t admit it, because she reckons it doesn’t affect her ability to do her job.
Well, news flash: It does.
And second news flash: What does facial recognition have to do with remembering a name properly? I’ve been here seven months, and I swear she’s still not sure whether I’m Cath or Cat.
I’m Cat, in fact. Cat short for Catherine. Because . . . well. It’s a cool nickname. It’s short and punchy. It’s modern. It’s London. It’s me. Cat. Cat Brenner.
Hi, I’m Cat.
Hi, I’m Catherine, but call me Cat.
OK, full disclosure: It’s not absolutely me. Not yet. I’m still part-Katie. I’ve been calling myself “Cat” since I started this job, but for some reason it hasn’t fully taken. Sometimes I don’t respond as quickly as I should when people call out “Cat.” I hesitate before I sign it, and one hideous time I had to scrub out a “K” I’d started writing on one of those big office birthday cards. Luckily no one saw. I mean, who doesn’t know their own name?
But I’m determined to be Cat. I will be Cat. It’s my all-new London name. I’ve had three jobs in my life (OK, two were internships), and at each new step I’ve reinvented myself a bit more. Changing from Katie to Cat is just the latest stage.
Katie is the home me. The Somerset me. A rosy-cheeked, curly-haired country girl who lives in jeans and wellies and a fleece which came free with a delivery of sheep food. A girl whose entire social life is the local pub or maybe the Ritzy in Warreton. A girl I’ve left behind.
As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted out of Somerset. I’ve wanted London. I never had boy bands on my bedroom wall; I had the tube map. Posters of the London Eye and the Gherkin.
The first internship I managed to scrape was in Birmingham, and that’s a big city too. It’s got the shops, the glamour, the buzz . . . but it’s not London. It doesn’t have that London-ness that makes my heart soar. The skyline. The history. Walking past Big Ben and hearing it chime, in real life. Standing in the same tube stations that you’ve seen in a million films about the Blitz. Feeling that you’re in one of the best cities in the world, no question, hands down. Living in London is like living in a movie set, from the Dickensian backstreets to the glinting tower blocks to the secret garden squares. You can be anyone you want to be.
There’s not much in my life that would score in the top ten of any global survey. I don’t have a top-ten job or wardrobe or flat. But I live in a top-ten city. Living in London is something that people all over the world would love to do, and now I’m here. And that’s why I don’t care if my commute is the journey from hell and I don’t care if my bedroom is about three foot square. I’m here.
I couldn’t get here straightaway. The only offer I had after uni was in a tiny marketing firm in Birmingham. So I moved up there and immediately started creating a new personality. I had bangs cut. I started straightening my hair every day and putting it in a smart knot. I bought myself a pair of black glasses with clear lenses. I looked different. I felt different. I even started doing my makeup differently, with super-defined lip liner every day and black liquid eyeliner in flicky curves.
(It took me a whole weekend to learn how to do that flicky eyeliner. It’s an actual skill, like trigonometry—so what I wonder is, why don’t they teach that at school? If I ran the country there’d be courses in things that you’d actually use your whole life. Like: How To Do Eyeliner. How To Fill In A Tax Return. What To Do When Your Loo Blocks And Your Dad Isn’t Answering The Phone And You’re About To Have A Party.)
It was in Birmingham that I decided to lose my West Country accent. I was in the loo, minding my own business, when I heard a couple of girls taking the piss out of me. Farrrmer Katie, they were calling me. And, yes, I was shocked, and, yes, it stung. I could have burst out of my cubicle and exclaimed, Well, I don’t think your Brummie accent’s any better!
But I didn’t. I just sat there and thought hard. It was a reality check. By the time I got my second internship—the one in east London—I was a different person. I’d wised up. I didn’t look or sound like Katie Brenner from Ansters Farm.
And now I’m totally Cat Brenner from London. Cat Brenner who works in a cool office with distressed-brick walls and white shiny desks and funky chairs and a coat stand in the shape of a naked man. (It gives everyone a real shock, the first time they come to visit.)
I mean, I am Cat. I will be. I just have to nail the not-signing-the-wrong-name thing.
“People,” Demeter says for a third time, and the office becomes quiet. There are ten of us in here, all with different titles and job descriptions. On the next floor up, there’s an events team, and a digital team, and the planning lot. There’s also some other group of creatives called the “vision team,” who work directly with Adrian, the CEO. Plus other offices for talent management and finance or whatever. But this floor is my world, and I’m at the bottom of the pile. I earn by far the least and my desk is the smallest, but you have to start somewhere. This is my first-ever paid job, and I thank my lucky stars for it every day. And, you know, my work is interesting. In a way.
I mean, I suppose it depends how you define “interesting.” I’m currently working on this really exciting project to launch a new self-foaming “cappuccino-style” creamer from Coffeewite. I’m on the research side. And what that actually comes down to, in terms of my day-to-day work, is . . .
Well. Here’s the thing. You have to be realistic. You can’t go straight in at the fun, glam stuff. Dad just doesn’t get that. He’s always asking: Do I come up with all the ideas? Or: Have I met lots of important people? Or: Do I go for swanky business lunches every day? Which is ridiculous.
And, yes, I’m probably defensive, but he doesn’t understand, and it really doesn’t help when he starts wincing and shaking his head and saying, “And you’re really happy in the Big Smoke, Katie my love?” I am happy. But that doesn’t mean it’s not hard. Dad doesn’t know anything about jobs, or London, or the economy, or, I don’t know, the price of a glass of wine in a London bar. I haven’t even told him exactly how much my rent is, because I know what he’d say; he’d say—
Oh God. Deep breath. Sorry. I didn’t mean to launch into some off-topic rant about my dad. Things haven’t been great between us, ever since I moved away after uni. He doesn’t understand why I moved here, and he never will. And I can try to explain it all I like, but if you can’t feel London, all you see are traffic and fumes and expense and your daughter choosing to move more than a hundred miles away.
I had a choice: Follow my heart or don’t break his. I think in the end I broke a bit of both our hearts. Which the rest of the world doesn’t understand, because they think it’s normal to move out and away from home. But they aren’t my dad and me, who lived together, just us, for all those years.
Anyway. Back to my work. People at my level don’t meet the clients—Demeter does that. And Rosa. They go out for the lunches and come back with pink cheeks and free samples and excitement. Then they put together a pitch, which usually involves Mark and Liz too, and someone from the digital team, and sometimes Adrian. He’s not just CEO but also the co-founder of Cooper Clemmow, and he has an office down- stairs. (There was another co-founder, called Max, but he retired early to the south of France.)
Adrian’s quite amazing, actually. He’s about fifty and has a shock of iron-gray wavy hair and wears a lot of denim shirts and looks like he comes from the seventies. Which I suppose, in a way, he does. He’s also properly famous. Like, there’s a display of alumni outside King’s College, London, on the Strand, and Adrian’s picture is up there.
Anyway, so that’s all the main players. But I’m not at that level, nothing like. As I said, I’m involved in the research side, which means what I’m actually doing this week is . . .
And, listen, before I say it, it doesn’t sound glamorous, OK? But it’s not as bad as it sounds, really.
I’m inputting data. To be specific, the results of this big customer survey we did for Coffeewite about coffee, creamers, cappuccinos, and, well, everything. Two thousand handwritten surveys, each eight pages long. I know, right? Paper? No one does paper surveys anymore. But Demeter wanted to go “old school” because she read some research that said people are 25 percent more honest when they’re writing with a pen than they are online. Or something.
So here we are. Or, rather, here I am, with five boxfuls of questionnaires still to go.
It can get a bit tiring, because it’s the same old questions and the participants all scribbled their answers in Biro and they aren’t always clear. But on the plus side, this research will shape the whole project! Flora was all “My God, poor you, Cat, what a bloody nightmare!”—but actually it’s fascinating. Well. I mean, you have to make it fascinating. I’ve taken to guessing people’s income brackets based on what they said in the question about foam density. And you know what? I’m usually right. It’s like mind reading. The more I’m inputting these answers, the more I’m learning about consumers; at least I hope so—
“People. What the fuck is up with Trekbix?”
Demeter’s voice breaks into my thoughts again. She’s standing in her spiky heels, thrusting a hand through her hair, with that impatient, frustrated, what-is-wrong-with-the- world expression she gets.
“I wrote myself a set of notes about this.” She’s scrolling through her phone, ignoring us all again. “I know I did.”
“I haven’t seen any notes,” says Sarah from behind her desk, using her customary low, discreet voice. Saint Sarah, as Flora calls her. Sarah is Demeter’s assistant. She has luscious red hair which she ties into a ponytail and very white, pretty teeth. She’s the one who makes her own clothes: gorgeous retro fifties-style outfits with circular skirts. And how she keeps sane, I have no idea.
Demeter has got to be the scattiest person in the universe. Every day, it seems, she misplaces a document or gets the time of an appointment wrong. Sarah is always very patient and polite to Demeter, but you can see her frustration in her mouth. It goes all tight and one corner disappears into her cheek. She’s apparently the master of sending emails out from Demeter’s account, in Demeter’s voice, saving the situation, apologizing and generally smoothing things over.
I know it’s a big job that Demeter does. Plus she has her family to think about, and school concerts or whatever. But how can you be this flaky?
“Right. Found it. Why was it in my personal folder?” Demeter looks up from her phone with that confused, eye-darty look she sometimes gets, like the entire world confounds her.
“You just need to save it under—” Sarah tries to take Demeter’s phone, but she swipes it away.
“I know how to use my phone. That’s not the point. The point is—” She stops dead, and we all wait breathlessly. This is another Demeter habit: She starts a really arresting sentence and then stops halfway through, as though her batteries have been turned off. I glance at Flora and she does a little eye roll to the ceiling.
“Yes. Yes.” Demeter resumes: “What’s going on with Trekbix? Because I thought Liz was going to write a response to their email, but I’ve just had a further email from Rob Kincaid asking why he’s heard nothing. So?” She swivels round to Liz, finally focusing on the person she needs to, finally coming alive. “Liz? Where is it? You promised me a draft by this morning.” She taps her phone. “It’s in my notes from last Monday’s meeting. Liz to write draft. First rule of client care, Liz?”
Hold the client’s hand, I think to myself, although I don’t say it out loud. That would be too geeky.
“Hold the client’s hand,” declaims Demeter. “Hold it throughout. Make them feel secure every minute of the process. Then you’ll have a happy customer. You’re not holding Rob Kincaid’s hand, Liz. His hand’s dangling and he’s not a happy bunny.”
Liz colors. “I’m still working on it.” “Still?”
“There’s a lot to put in.”
“Well, work faster.” Demeter frowns at her. “And send it to me for approval first. Don’t just ping it off to Rob. By lunchtime, OK?”
“OK,” mumbles Liz, looking pissed off. She doesn’t often put a foot wrong, Liz. She’s project manager and has a very tidy desk and straight fair hair which she washes every day with apple-scented shampoo. She eats a lot of apples too. Actually I’ve never connected those two facts before. Weird.
“Where is that email from Rob Kincaid?” Demeter is scrolling back and forth, peering at her phone. “It’s disappeared from my inbox.”
“Have you deleted it by mistake?” says Sarah patiently. “I’ll forward it to you again.”
This is Sarah’s other pet annoyance: Demeter is always carelessly deleting emails and then needing them urgently and getting in a tizz. Sarah says she spends half her life forwarding emails to Demeter, and thank God one of them has an efficient filing system.
“There you are.” Sarah clicks briskly. “I’ve forwarded Rob’s email to you. In fact, I’ve forwarded all his emails to you, just in case.”
“Thanks, Sarah.” Demeter subsides. “I don’t know where that email went. . . .” She’s peering at her phone, but Sarah doesn’t seem interested.
“So, Demeter, I’m going off to my first-aid training now,” she says, reaching for her bag. “I told you about it? Because I’m the first-aid officer?”
“Right.” Demeter looks bemused, and it’s clear she’d to- tally forgotten. “Great! Well done you. So, Sarah, before you go, let’s touch base. . . .” She scrolls through her phone. “It’s the London Food Awards tonight. . . . I need to get to the hairdressers this afternoon. . . .”
“You can’t,” Sarah interrupts. “This afternoon is solid.”
“What?” Demeter looks up from her phone. “But I booked the hairdressers.”
“Tomorrow?” Demeter sounds aghast and her eyes are swiveling again. “No. I booked it for Monday.”
“Look at your calendar.” Sarah sounds barely able to control her patience. “It was Tuesday, Demeter, always Tuesday.”
“But I need my roots done, urgently. Can I cancel anyone this afternoon?”
“It’s those polenta people. And then it’s the team from Green Teen.”
“Shit.” Demeter screws up her face in agony. “Shit.”
“And you’ve got a conference call in fifteen minutes. Can I go?” says Sarah in long-suffering tones.
“Yes. Yes. You go.” Demeter waves a hand. “Thanks, Sarah.” She heads back into her glass-walled office, exhaling sharply. “Shit, shit. Oh.” She reappears. “Rosa. The Sensiquo logo? We should try it in a bigger point size. It came to me on my way in. And try the roundel in aquamarine. Can you talk to Mark? Where is Mark?” She glances querulously at his desk.
“Working from home today,” says Jon, a junior creative. “Oh,” says Demeter mistrustfully. “OK.”
Demeter doesn’t really believe in working from home. She says you lose the flow with people disappearing the whole time. But Mark had it negotiated into his contract before Demeter arrived, so there’s nothing she can do about it.
“Don’t worry, I’ll tell him,” says Rosa, scribbling furiously on her notepad. “Point size, aquamarine.”
“Great. Oh, and Rosa.” She pops her head out yet again. “I want to discuss Python training. Everyone in this office should be able to code.”
“Coding!” says Demeter impatiently. “I read a piece about it in The Huffington Post. Put it on the agenda for the next group meeting.”
“OK.” Rosa looks baffled. “Coding. Fine.”
As Demeter closes her door, everyone breathes out. This is Demeter. Totally random. Keeping up with her is exhausting. Rosa is tapping frantically at her phone, and I know she’s sending a bitchy text about Demeter to Liz. Sure enough, a moment later Liz’s phone pings, and she nods vociferously at Rosa.
I haven’t totally fathomed the office politics of this place— it’s like trying to catch up on a TV soap opera mid-flow. But I do know that Rosa applied for Demeter’s job and didn’t get it. I also know that they had a massive row, just before I arrived. Rosa wanted to get on some big one-off special project that the mayor of London spearheaded. It was branding some new London athletics event, and he put together a team seconded from creative agencies all over London. The Evening Standard called it a showcase for London’s best and brightest. But Demeter wouldn’t let Rosa do it. She said she needed Rosa on her team 24/7, which was bullshit. Since then, Rosa has hated Demeter with a passion.
Flora’s theory is that Demeter’s so paranoid about being overtaken by her young staff that she won’t help anyone. If you even try to climb the ladder, she stamps on your fingers with her Miu Miu shoes. Apparently Rosa’s desperate to leave Cooper Clemmow now—but there’s not a lot out there in this market. So here poor Rosa stays, stuck with a boss she hates, basically loathing every moment of her work. You can see it in her hunched shoulders and frowning brow.
Mark also loathes Demeter, and I know the story there too. Demeter’s supposed to oversee the design team. Oversee, not do it all herself. But she can’t stop herself. Design is Demeter’s thing—design and packaging. She knows the names of more typefaces than you can imagine, and sometimes she interrupts a meeting just to show us all some packaging design that she thinks really works. Which is, you know, great. But it’s also a problem, because she’s always wading in.
So last year Cooper Clemmow refreshed the branding of a big moisturizer called Drench, and it was Demeter’s idea to go pale orange with white type. Well, it’s been this massive hit, and we’ve won all sorts of prizes. All good—except for Mark, who’s head of design. Apparently he’d already created this whole other design package. But Demeter came up with the orange idea, mocked it up herself, and flung it out there at a client meeting. And apparently Mark felt totally belittled.
The worst thing is, Demeter didn’t even notice that Mark was pissed off. She doesn’t pick up on things like that. She’s all high five, great work team, move on, next project. And then it was such a huge hit that Mark could hardly complain. I mean, in some ways, he’s lucky: He got a load of credit for that redesign. He can put it on his CV and everything. But still. He’s all bristly and has this sarcastic way of talking to Demeter which makes me wince.
The sad thing is, everyone else in the office knows Mark is really talented. Like, he’s just won the Stylesign Award for Innovation. (Apparently it’s some really prestigious thing.) But it’s as if Demeter doesn’t even realize what a great head of design she has.
Liz isn’t that happy here either, but she puts up with it. Flora, on the other hand, bitches about Demeter all the time, but I think that’s because she loves bitching. I’m not sure about the others.
As for me, I’m still the new girl. I’ve only been here seven months and I keep my head down and don’t venture my opinion too much. But I do have ambition; I do have ideas. I’m all about design too, especially typography—in fact, that’s what Demeter and I talked about in my interview.
Whenever a new project comes into the office, my brain fires up. I’ve put together so many bits of spec work in my spare time on my laptop. Logos, design concepts, strategy documents . . . I keep emailing them to Demeter, for feedback, and she keeps promising she will look at them, when she has a moment.
Everyone says you mustn’t chivvy Demeter or she flies off the handle. So I’m biding my time, like a surfer waiting for a wave. I’m pretty good at surfing, as it happens, and I know the wave will come. When the moment is right, I’ll get Demeter’s attention. She’ll look at my stuff, everything will click, and I’ll start riding my life. Not paddling, paddling, paddling, like I am right now.
I’m just picking up my next survey from the pile when Hannah, another of our designers, enters the office. There’s a general gasp and Flora turns to raise her eyebrows at me. Poor Hannah had to go home on Friday. She really wasn’t well. She’s had about five miscarriages over the last two years, and it’s left her a bit vulnerable, and occasionally she has a panic attack. It happened Friday, so Rosa told her to go home and have a rest. The truth is, Hannah works probably the hardest in the office. I’ve seen emails from her at 2:00 a.m. She de- serves a bit of a break.
“Hannah!” Rosa exclaims. “Are you OK? Take it really easy today.”
“I’m fine,” says Hannah, slipping into her seat, avoiding everyone’s eye. “I’m fine.” She instantly opens up a document and starts work, sipping from a bottle of filtered tap water. (Cooper Clemmow launched the brand, so we all have these freebie neon bottles on our desks.)
“Hannah!” Demeter appears at the door of her office. “You’re back. Well done.”
“I’m fine,” says Hannah yet again. I can tell she doesn’t want any fuss made, but Demeter comes right over to her desk.
“Now, please don’t worry, Hannah,” she says in her ringing, authoritative tones. “No one thinks you’re a drama queen or anything like that. So don’t worry about it at all.”
She gives Hannah a friendly nod, then strides back into her office and shuts her door. The rest of us are watching, dumbstruck, and poor Hannah looks absolutely stricken. As soon as Demeter is back in her office, she turns to Rosa.
“Do you all think I’m a drama queen?” she gulps.
“No!” exclaims Rosa at once, and I can hear Liz muttering, “Bloody Demeter.”
“Listen, Hannah,” Rosa continues, heading to Hannah’s desk, crouching down, and looking her straight in the eye. “You’ve just been Demetered.”
“That’s right,” agrees Liz. “You’ve been Demetered.”
“It happens to us all. She’s an insensitive cow and she says stupid stuff and you just have to not listen, OK? You’ve done really well coming in today, and we all really appreciate the effort you’ve made. Don’t we?” She looks around and a spatter of applause breaks out, whereupon Hannah’s cheeks flush with pleasure.
“Fuck Demeter,” ends Rosa succinctly, and she heads back to her desk, amid even more applause.
From the corner of my eye, I can see Demeter glancing out of her glass-walled office, as though wondering what’s going on. And I almost feel sorry for her. She really has no idea.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Good lighthearted read. Enjoyable characters. Engaging story. Couldn't stop reading.
I love Sophie Kinsella books. This one was great too. Funny and I absolutely loved it. Wonderfully written and what great characters. Fun read.
Easy fun to read book. As per usual, Sophie makes her characters endearing and you can't help but cheer them on!
"My (not so) Perfect Life" delves into the difference between how we appear and who we are. Katie Brenner (now reinventing herself as Cat) has spent a lot of her life trying to reach her goals and convince herself that everything in her life is perfect- despite her annoying and at-times harassing roommates in her cheap flat hours away from her work where she enters boring data all day. She admires her boss, Demeter, from afar- Demeter has everything, a sweet family, booming career, gorgeous house. Katie feels pulled in several directions (her BFF in NYC and loving it, her father with his entrepreneurial schemes that she is able to help with), but her life takes a sudden turn when she is fired from the (not so) perfect job in London. Lying to her father and his sweet wife, Biddy, she grasps straws and comes to work with them on her "sabbatical" while also job hunting. Katie thrives working on their glamping business- she knows what high-end glampers want in their time away from the city. She is essentially doing the ultimate branding (her former job) for her family's farm- and it's a swimming success. So much so that her former boss and idol, Demeter, comes to stay. Katie also has a love interest from London (and a harrassing ex-boyfriend who still lives in town and works on her family's farm), but this also in included as a smaller part of the story. The relationship is very fairytale-like, complete with the playboy makeover. If you don't look too far below the surface, it's sweet and happy. The real theme and relationship here is between Katie and Demeter. Both want the world to see what they wish they were, rather than what they are. Katie recognizes it in herself, but not in others, and getting to know the real Demeter who is glamping with her, opens her to some real truths- truths that a lot of us can use, when we experience the same jealousies over people we don't really know and insecurities about ourselves and our lives. As a huge fan of "Can you keep a secret?" and her other books, I put a lot of hope in this book, and it did not disappoint. Fans of Kinsella will find the same laugh-out-loud lines and clever humor throughout this book. It has a very similar feel and tone to the Shopaholic and Secret books. The theme here is a little different and a little deeper, I thought, and it really adds a new level to Kinsella's adult comedic writing (she has some deeper books which have a completely different feel- e.g. "Finding Audrey"), but this is a book which you could read at the beach and adore and then continue to think about after you put it down. I really enjoyed it and read it within a day. I think this is sure to be a fantastic hit amongst Kinsella fans across the board. While it won't replace the part of my heart held by Secret, it was a delightful and light-hearted read that I was very happy to have enjoyed. Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.
4.5 Stars This was such a delicious story, I genuinely struggled to put it down to get on with real life. This surprised me as the settings and the character exploits all feel a little surreal and overly contrived, plus there are no real surprises contained in the story at all. The real joy comes from the wit and the warmth of the writing which pulls you in and simply refuses to let you go; no matter how peculiar Katie's life seems if you try and analyse it as a rational person you find that you really don't care. Katie is from deepest, darkest Somerset and has always wanted to live and work in London. Her chosen field is advertising and she ends up, via Birmingham, working for a branding agency that involves the boss from hades and an 80 minute commute. Trying to rebrand herself to fit in with the life she thinks she should be living she changes from Katie to Cat, gets a disastrous fringe and becomes a bit of a doormat (if we're being honest). Katie envies almost everyone in the office and thinks that every Instagram post is genuine, even though she lies in her own. When her father and stepmother decide to turn the dairy farm of her childhood in to a Glamping site Katie gets on board with the promotion and takes a sabbatical from London. Unfortunately, this is yet another book where a new business venture is an instant triumph (becoming a bit of a bone of contention with me is this one). Can Katie be lured back to London? Is Demeter (the demonic boss) really evil? Is Alex the man of Katie's dreams or, as she fears, just a ship passing in the night? Character development is generally good in the book. This is particularly true for Katie and Demeter. Unfortunately Alex is pretty much a cardboard cut out and the women in the office are every "Karen" the memes warned you about. The book also has some gentle reminders that online existence is very different to the reality of the poster's life and not to believe the hype. It's also a cautionary tale in people's perceptions of you. Enjoyable escapism of the highest order!
Cat Brenner is longing for the life she has always dreamed of. She left her country farm life and her real name, Katie, behind her and ventured to London to try and pursue a career in design at the branding firm of Cooper Clemmow. The position she lands isn't exactly her dream job but Cat is willing to work her way up and attempts to get her designs in front of her boss, Demeter, whenever she gets the chance. Though Demeter may be the most scatter brained person she's ever met, Cat thinks she has the most perfect life - stunning home, kids, handsome husband, ritzy parties with celebrities and the job of all jobs. When one day Cat's dreams for her future come to a crashing halt she is forced to return to her family's farm and revaluate who Cat/Katie is meant to be. All is well until her London life shows up in Somerset. "My (Not So) Perfect Life" is a great reminder that even though we may share a picture perfect existence on social media...all is not always what it seems. Finding acceptance in her day to day flaws and realizing that being real is better than pretending to be perfect is extremely freeing to Katie, a wonderful resolution for all. This is the second book I have read by Sophie Kinsella ("Surprise Me" being the first) and I have to say I loved this one even more. A heartwarming book to add to your TBR list.
This is perfect, like all her others!
Wonderful book. Flew right through. I love the humor she puts in. I took a break from her books but this one brought me right back to why i like her style of writing.
I'm a huge fan, love all of her other book and this is the first time I'm disappointed..... not a great story and hard to follow.
Katie ("Cat") Brenner is a country bumpkin trying to find herself in the big City, London. She has a decent job at Cooper Clemmow with the hopes of moving up in the company now that she has the foot in the door. Her boss, Demeter, has everything that Cat wants: great job, great house, great husband, and great kids. What is actual perfection and what is an illusion? I have read almost all of Sophie Kinsella's standalone books, with the only exception being Finding Audrey. I get excited for each new release because I know it is going to take me right to my happy place. The same applies for My (Not So) Perfect Life! I forced myself to slow down reading this book because I wanted to savor it. It was romantic, a bit silly at times, and yet there was a lot of character development among multiple characters. It gets deep yet some characters are shallow. There are misconceptions that get out of hand yet there is empathy. It is modern yet it comes back to the age-old question: is the grass always greener on the other side? I highly recommend this book, as well as Sophie Kinsella's other books, for anyone looking for a relatable and humorous light read. I would not recommend this book for any reader that is offended by foul language, bullying, or sexually suggestive scenarios. Please note: an electronic copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Katie (Cat) Brenner is trying to make her way in London, working at a branding agency and fulfilling her Instagram with wishful thinking. Her flatmates seems horrible, her job seems thankless and life seems to be on hold. The boss from hell scenario plays out well, with scatter brained but brilliant Demeter running the office. Once Katie's fired, the story picks up steam as she heads home to Somerset and her father's farm, all the while hiding the fact that she has been sacked. I loved the second section of the book. Her dad and stepmom Biddy were great characters and the idea to turn their farm into a glamping site plays out very well. This is where Kinsella shines, just when you though this would be another Becky-like character, Katie comes into her own, in a way that makes me wish this would hit the big screen. It turns out, in looking at her booklist, I've read all of Kinsella's books, except for her young adult one. I may have to make time for that as I wait for her next, always fun, novel.
Sophie Kinsella wrote another romantic comedy that is what I have come to expect from her books. Katie/Cat Brennan is the young woman from the country who has moved to London for her dream job. She has not had the most wonderful life and is not really living it now. She lives in a tiny flat that she shares with two roommates, she has a horrendous commute to work, is a low level researcher who does not make a lot of money and she feels guilty about leaving her father on the farm. She does not want anyone to know about her life, so her instagram feed is full of other people's photos, events and even food to make her life look wonderful. When her life changes, she has to change with it. This book was a fun read, yet it was great to see how Katie grew. She learns to be herself, accept her life the way it is and to be thankful for everything. Of course there is a man that she wants who is just a bit out of reach, or is he? I enjoyed Katie's story. Getting to know her father and step-mother and where she grew up was a wonderful part of the story. Her boss Demeter is a hilarious character. She goes from bitchy, inconsiderate boss to someone who is in danger of losing her boss. As she and Katie begin to develop a bond, the comraderie is wonderful, but the antics they go through are guaranteed to make you laugh. Another winner for Kinsella. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley.
This book surprised me a bit. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would and I figured out what was happening to Demeter very quickly. It was easy to see that this book mixed different author's influences, but it worked for Ms Kinsella. I was charmed instead of annoyed. What also surprised me is that I really thought that Katie would take the more emotionally draining way out of this mess (stay in the country), but I'm glad she went back to what she truly wanted in her life. *ARC supplied by publisher
Katie Brenner is a West Country gal trying to make her London dreams come true. And failing spectacularly. She's finally got a paying job as a research associate at a branding (Advertising) agency, but she's the lowest one on the books there. Her salary is so low she shares a flat with two other people, more than an hour's commute away from work. She admires her friends' Instagram accounts, and fabricates her own "fab life" with pictures she grabs on the go--because she could never afford that decadent coffee, or that divine dinner spot. Nope. But, she studies hard, making lists of all the places she's check out just as soon as she launches her way up the ladder to success. Her boss, Demeter, is a criminally scatterbrained woman with far too many fabulous aspects to be truly human. She's always out to dinner, or at an award night, and her family is all shiny and perfect. And, if the office rumor mill can be trusted, Demeter's got a long-standing "arrangement" with Alex, the younger partner in their firm--and the man Katie'd thought had a bit of an interest in herself. Katie, who calls herself "Cat" in her fab life, studies Demeter, aspiring to learn more and impress her one day soon. It's not meant to be, however. Their branding firm is having some issues with clients and Katie's let go soon after she designed the branding on her father's newest get-rich-quick scheme: glamping on their country estate. Having no other prospects, Katie returns home from London under the premise that she's got a 'sabbatical' to help out her family. Really, she can't admit she had a horrible life in London, because her father's totally against her living there, and she doesn't want to live int he country forever. She's making applications and chatting to headhunters whenever she isn't setting up the glamping yurts, or customizing the "totally organic experience" for each of their hoity-toity guests. It's with immediate dismay that Demeter and fam arrive--because she'll blow Katie's cover to her dad. Then again, when Demeter doesn't recognize "Cat" in her 'West Country Katie' persona, Katie's able to get some of her own back, torturing Demeter with "one-of-a-kind," "exclusive," "holistic" treatments. That is, until Katie grows a conscience, and learns that Demeter isn't as nearly perfect as her Instagram feed would reflect. I really dug this one. It's a more mature, and less-slapstick, type of book than I've read from Ms. Kinsella before. The careful plotting and copious breadcrumbs led me right into the conundrum: how do we cope when life isn't like we spin it? Social media facades, cyberbullying, corporate espionage were not what I expected to find in this one, but, wow! Was this a rich tapestry. Katie's a great character, not too young, despite her naivete, at points. She's fully relatable, as the plucky gal clawing her way out of a hard-scrabble life--only to have her dreams dashed. The amazing turns of situation, particularly regarding Demeter and the jobs at their branding firm, was carefully intimated, and led me along in the proper directions. Plus, I got yet another object lesson in the value of empathy, and being a stand-up person even when it's really freaking hard. Facing down her father, with his absolute love for Katie and desperate want to have her stay home forever? Appropriately heart-crushing. I loved Katie, and how she grew up and owned her life, and her mistakes. This is a fun read with great heart.
I loved this book. I laughed out loud in parts, and cringed with embarrassment when Katie did things I have had thoughts about doing. I read My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella in exchange for a review. I can honestly say it is the best book I have read in quite a while. Katie Brenner longs to be Kat, the sophisticated career woman, and strives to emulate her boss Demeter. When her carefully contrived world crumbles she gets a chance to see Demeter as a real person and rediscovers herself at the same time.
My Experience: I started reading My (not so) Perfect Life on 1/26/17 and finished it on 1/31/17. This book can be quickly described as a series of hilarious unfortunate events. It started out with Katie getting on the tube to make the morning rush to get to work on time. The subway/tube ride just tickles me. I laugh with tears coming out. She talks about her job, her co-workers, and her boss, Demeter. She’s Katie at home, but in London, she’s Cat with a different hairstyle. Living in London is her dream, even though moving away from home breaks her dad’s heart. Her boss seems to have it all but Katie’s on the other end of the stick. She posts pictures on her instagram of her life in London, the life she wanted rather than the life she actually lives. “Pitch her exactly the right idea, exactly when she needs it.” p148 My (not so) Perfect Life revolves around Katie/Cat trying to make it in London on her own and the people she comes into contact with. I do like following Katie’s train of thoughts. She’s very self motivated, organized, determined, and ambitious. She’s trying to make it on her own in London with an entry level job and high cost of living. She has to budget her spending money otherwise she won’t have enough to live by. She reads restaurant reviews to know which restaurant/dishes is popular since she can’t afford to eat there. She wants to have what her boss Demeter has: the house, the Miu Miu shoes, the invitations to parties, the good paying job, etc. She tries hard to get her boss’ attention so that she can climb up her career ladder to be doing something she loves instead of something else. She can’t justify to spend 40 quids on snacks when it can pay for a week of groceries. Reading this book, I’m sure many readers can relate to Katie. “No one’s life has to be perfect. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself, love. Whoever started the rumor that life has to be perfect is a very wicked person, if you ask me.” p358 This book is organized into two parts. The first part is of Katie/Cat trying to make it in London. The second part is when she goes back home to help her dad and stepmother starting a Glamping business. She’s not in a happy situation because she started this lie to her parents and it grows bigger and deeper. When one day, her boss Demeter and family came for holiday at her parent’s Glamping (glam camping) and put Katie in an even awkward situation. I like this part of the book most because it opens to readers about life. It explains more about how we look at life and our expectations compare to what we receive. “Beautiful. That word again. I want to take it away in my hands and keep it in a jar forever.” p332 I cry and I laugh when I read this book. I like this book because of the moral in the story. Image is not what it appears to be. I’m glad of the reminder. I like Katie and her full disclosures. All in all, this book is a great read! Sophie Kinsella writes an amazing tale, filled with everyday experiences. Anyone reading this book can relate to it one way or another. Living in USA, I really enjoy reading a book takes place in London because I get to enjoy new vocabularies. Got pissed means got drunk! Overall, I highly recommend this read, if it doesn’t make you laugh out loud, it will make you see people in a different way! For a detailed review, please visit www.howusefulitis.wordpress.com. Many thanks to Random House for the opportunity to read and review. My reviews are honest. xoxo, Jasmine
I LOVE this book. LOVE LOVE LOVE! Throughout this entire story I was laughing out loud, from the first chapter to the last. Rarely do I explain to my husband what I’m reading but some images were just too hilarious to keep to myself. The drone scene in the beginning had me rolling, as did the Vedari debacle. Kinsella way of writing makes you feel like the character is talking right with you like a friend, I could be her friend, I want to be her friend! Truly, I want to live and work on Ansters Farm. One thing I couldn’t understand about Katie is her want for the city and not wanting to stay on the farm, it sounded like a dream, but I guess without that there wouldn’t be a story. Right away I was vaguely reminded of The Devil Wears Prada but the finish was so much more satisfying and everything was much more realistic. Once again, hearing about London city life was a treat, as was balking at the price of Diptyque candles, which I had to look up. Not someone who indulges in romances, the relationship in this story was just enough that I was cheering for a happy ending, yet I wasn’t completely grossed out about the specifics. It was sweet and necessary but there was so much more to the story. Before this book I had never read any of Sophie Kinsella’s work, though I have heard of the titles, and they have been added to my every growing “to read” list.
Settling down to read a Sophie Kinsella book is the literary equivalent of having a long chat with your best friend after being away for a while. It’s comforting, wonderfully funny, and absolutely refreshing. Sophie Kinsella is my go-to author for those horrible, no good, very bad days and I already know that My Not-So Perfect Life will now be at the top of the rotation. Katie was such a relatable, likable character. Her life was a somewhat exaggerated version of what my friends and I went through after graduating from college and moving out into the world. (like when Katie is sitting in her room eating dinner and her hammock falls on her. Although my version involves some carefully stacked cardboard boxes for a closet collapsing in the middle of the night). Her relationship with her parents was pitch-perfect. It addressed many of the challenges of truly becoming an adult (like not quite telling them the whole truth when things get bad because you don’t want them to worry). I loved the journey that she went through to find herself in this book. It was the perfect mix of heart-warming, funny, and painful. Honestly, I preferred the relationship that developed between Demeter and Katie to that between Katie and Alex. Katie and Demeter truly torture each other before finding the flaws in each other’s armor of perfection. It was wonderful to see a relationship built on respect (and women advocating for each other in the workplace!) As for Katie and Alex, I didn’t quite understand the chemistry and would have liked that relationship developed a little bit more (but it was still absolutely adorable). Is the plot somewhat over the top? Absolutely. But so is that of any good chick-lit story. In her somewhat unrealistic tale, Sophie Kinsella manages to impart some lessons that are important for us all to remember. Particularly for those of us who spend any significant portion of our time on social media. This book was an absolute delight to read. I was utterly captivated and couldn’t put it down (but actually, I read this book in one sitting). I would recommend to anyone who is looking for a funny yet touching read. P.S. Dear Hollywood, please make this into a movie. *I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Catherine (Cat) Brenner lives in London and battles the tube travel commute every day which take her well over an hour one way. Her boss, Demeter, complains about her 25-minute commute, which makes Cat roll her eyes. Cat works at a branding and strategy agency called Cooper Clemmow. Demeter is married with two children, makes an enormous salary, and lives in a stunning house. Cat, on the other hand, lives in a tiny room and barely makes enough to get by. Demeter is juggling lots of contracts and depends on her assistant to help her. Unfortunately, Demeter is not liked by many in the office because they feel as though they were passed over for her job. Cat is trying hard to make friends at work and to try and get noticed by her boss. One day, a handsome man named Alex asks Cat to help him look over some items to decide if they would be worth supporting/branding them. She soon finds out that he is Demeter’s boss. She dreams about how wonderful it would be to date him. She gets embarrassed when her drunken co-worker tells Alex at the office Christmas party that Cat has a crush on him. Mortified, Cat cannot face him. Cat’s name is actually Katie and she grew up on a farm in the countryside. Her mother passed away when Katie was little and it was her father who raised her. Katie heads home for the Christmas break. Her Dad has always had a lot of get-rich schemes that never paned out. Katie suggests that he offer a country vacation spot complete with yurts, great good, and lots of games and exercise. She even does up a fabulous brochure and after working it through, it becomes a reality. This is a good thing because as soon as Cat gets back to work after Christmas break, Demeter fires her. Totally shocked, she heads back home and tells her Dad she is on sabbatical from her job. So, she delves in and works to make the vacation spot a success. They get many people coming and enjoying themselves. When Demeter and her family show up, Katie disguises herself and does all she can to get back at Demeter under the guise of healthy exercise. But when Alex arrives to see Demeter, things get really rough. This is a terrific story that only Sophie Kinsella can write. I have loved all of her books and this one did not disappoint. Grab a copy of this book and come join the fun. I’m betting you will love the story. Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Entertaining and captivating are two words that come to mind when I think about this novel. I was deeply involved inside Cat’s world as she tried to prove to the world that she was an intelligent and capable individual. Trying to live out her dream in London, Cat is trying to make a name for herself in the business world but it’s not working. She’s told she must exert herself if she wants to succeed which is not Cat’s strong point but is something that she must do or she will be overlooked. Cat looks at her boss Demeter and she sees perfection. She wants what Demeter has and she has decided that she will do what it takes. Cat returns home to Somerset to visit her family, her father and Biddy inform her that they want to set up a family -run business of glamping and they want Cat’s help. Cat tells them that she will help but her job in London is her first priority. It was here in the novel that I could not tear myself away as things quickly picked up and I couldn’t put it down until I was finished. It was a wonderful story, so real and fun to read. I was dreading the final pages. A boyfriend was not on Cat’s list of objectives for London but she has finally found a person she felt comfortable with, someone she could talk to and have fun with. Little does she know how important and how complicated things will get having this person in her life. It was a humorous, high-energy story about life. Life that involves twists and turns and choices that we make because they are our dreams. This was my second Sophie Kinsella novel, I really should read more of hers. I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.
Katie Brenner is the Bridget Jones of this generation. She is funny, determined, and struggling to reinvent herself in London. Now trying to be Cat (rather than Katie), she has landed her dream job at a company that specializes in branding products. I loved this book. It perfectly shows the anxiety of starting one's career and the pressure to be successful, for yourself, and for your family. I was rooting for Katie from the start. What I liked: London: Sophie Kinsella captures all that is wonderful, and dreadful, about being young and alone in an expensive city. I lived in England for a short time as a college student. I look back on it as a magical time. But when I really think back, I being to remember some of the not so glamorous aspects. Everything was ungodly expensive, and the people were so fashionable. I saved up for weeks in order to buy a stylish winter coat in order to fit in. But that was my only big purchase. I was mostly reduced to window shopping. London itself (when we went there on weekends) was so intimidating. I remember being overwhelmed trying to navigate The Tube. And the place where I stayed was so very cold... Reading about Katie's misadventures brought me back to that awkward time of being an independent adult for the first time. Glamping: Glamping is a term for luxury camping, mostly for city dwellers who want to be in nature, but don't really want to rough it. Katie's father and stepfather start a glamping business to suppliment their income as farmers. I loved this part of the book because it showcased not only Katie's abilities as a marketer, but her father's and stepmother's skills as well. Her father is a natural charmer, when he want to be. His tendency to be a cheapskate is tempered by Katie's knowledge that in order to make this business a success, everything must be of the best quality. And her stepmother shines as she is able to showcase her cooking and crafting abilities. I loved these things so much that I made a Pinterest board for this book! Characters: Demeter is Katie's demanding boss at the branding firm. She seems to have everything: Beauty, a perfect family, a successful career, and a lover on the side. But is that really who she is? I can just see Rosamund Pike as Demeter. Katie is the college grad who yearns for the perfect life and if she isn't quite there yet, well... no one needs to know. She obsessively posts perfect shots of London life on Instagram. It's all a farce, but she doesn't seem to get that if she is faking her life online, probably others are too. She simply takes what she sees as other people's perfect lives at face value. I see Emilia Clarke as Katie. What I Was Mixed About: The ending was a little too perfect. While I love endings where all the plot points are tied up, this ending was over the top. I would have loved to have Katie make some hard choices about what her priorities were. That would have been more realistic and just as satisfying.
Katie Brenner is living the dream! She’s escaped her small-town Somerset life, dumped her accent, and is living in London in a flat she shares with two other workers. She’s working for a chic London company which specializes in unique marketing strategies. Her boss, Demeter, is a genius in branding products, even if she is a hyped up, selfish and demanding woman whose key interest, outside of her skilled choices of advertising, is being the first to do whatever is trending in food, clothing, etc. Initially, Katie is hired as a research assistant, putting survey data into a computer, hardly a blip on Demeter’s interest screen. Katie, who is now calling herself “Cat” is starting to yearn for more. She’s got what she thinks are some brilliant design and advertising schemes and wants the chance to become acknowledged as someone worth encouraging to become an integral part of Cooper Clemmow, a famed company. She then accidentally meets Alex and he shares with her some wacky adult toys (no, not sexual). As time passes, Katie and Alex become close but this goes nowhere fast as a dramatic error happens at Clemmow and Katie is fired. No, this isn’t a downer, although Katie is deeply upset. Katie’s such a spunky character that she takes it in stride and returns to live in Somerset with her caring Dad. He and his new wife has opened a country resort. Lo and behold, who should arrive as guest but Demeter, her husband and her children. And not too long after, Alex appears but not to woo Katie. Before his arrival, Katie sees another side of Demeter which throws her plan to spike some revenge on her. Alex has the same plan and the remainder of the novel brings some surprises and shows Katie maturing and making some startling choices! Sophie Kinsella has done a marvelous job in creating this feisty character, Katie. The plot is simple but there are enough snarky, funny moments to lighten the plot and give the reader a delightful experience. Smart, humorous and satirical look at fame and fortune, laced with a bucket of old-fashioned, spot-on values. Nicely crafted, Sophie Kinsella!
Katie has lived in Somerset all her life, but her dream is to live in London. She pictures the ideal life she would have.... dinners at posh restaurants, a lovely flat, a wonderful job. What she gets when she moves to London is drastically different. I loved this book. Katie felt like someone you could relate to, the situations were things you could sympathize with. You really get invested, rooting for Katie. I have to admit, I couldn't put this down. This may have been her best book yet!
I was thrilled to learn that Sophie Kinsella has a new book coming out, and even more thrilled when I received an advanced copy from Random House through NetGalley! All opinions are my own. Katie Brenner, or Cat, or Katie…well, frankly, she can’t quite decide…has long dreamed of moving from England’s countryside to a more exciting and glamorous life in London. What she learns upon moving to the big city, however, is that life is a lot less sparkly and a lot more expensive than it looks in the pictures and movies. Unless of course you visit Katie/ Cat’s Instagram account. If you were judging based solely on that, you’d think she had the perfect life in London. First of all, who can’t relate to this plot? Let’s be honest, we all have those friends whose accounts we follow and think, “Gee, is anything ever wrong in his/her life?” Chances are, yes, but we wouldn’t know that because social media has allowed us to filter not only our photos but our lives so much that even we don’t recognize them. This is the social issue Kinsella tackles in her new book – that of living up to an online world’s standards while trying to actually live in the real world. This book was entertaining. I liked Katie. I could relate to her. Anyone who has ever dreamed big and found themselves disappointed or tried to reinvent themselves will be able to relate to her. She is likable, friendly, tender-hearted when it comes to her friends and family, and determined. Also, she has just the right amount of a vengeful streak which had me laughing out loud! Overall, the book is relatable and entertaining with surprising plot twists. If you are already a fan of Ms. Kinsella’s work, you won’t want to miss this one, and if you are considering giving her work a try, My Not So Perfect Life is the perfect place to start! Read full review at: KaitsBookshelf.com