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I Don't Know How She Does It: A Comedy about Failure, a Tragedy about Success Paperback – December 1, 2006

3.7 out of 5 stars 391 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Allison Pearson's debut novel, I Don't Know How She Does It, is a rare and beautiful hybrid: a devastatingly funny novel that's also a compelling fictional world. You want to climb inside this book and inhabit it. However, you might find it pretty messy once you're in there. Narrator Kate Reddy is the manager of a hedge fund and mother of two small children. The book opens with an emblematic scene as Kate "distresses" a store-bought mince pie to make it appear homemade. Her days are measured in increments of minutes and even seconds; her fund stays organized but her house and family are falling apart. The book is a pearly string of great lines. Here's Kate on lack of sleep: "They're right to call it a broken night.... You crawl back to bed and you lie there trying to do the jigsaw of sleep with half the pieces missing." On baby boys: "A mother of a one-year-old son is a movie star in a world without critics." On subtle office dynamics:
The women in the offices of EMF [Kate's firm] don't tend to display pictures of their kids. The higher they go up the ladder, the fewer the photographs. If a man has pictures of kids on his desk, it enhances his humanity; if a woman has them it decreases hers. Why? Because he's not supposed to be home with the children; she is.
There's inherent drama here: Kate is wildly appealing, and we want things to work out for her. In the end, the book isn't a just collection of clever lines on the theme of working motherhood; it's a real, rich novel about a character we come to cherish. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

This scintillating first novel has already taken its author's native England by storm, and in the tradition of Bridget Jones, to which it is likely to be compared, will almost certainly do the same here. The Bridget comparison has only limited validity, however: both books have a winning female protagonist speaking in a diary-like first person, and both have quirkily formulaic chapter endings. But Kate is notably brighter, wittier and capable of infinitely deeper shadings of feeling than the flighty Bridget, and her book cuts deeper. She is the mother of a five-year-old girl and a year-old boy, living in a trendy North London house with her lower-earning architect husband, and is a star at her work in an aggressive City of London brokerage firm. She is intoxicated by her jet-setting, high-profile job, but also is desperately aware of what it takes out of her life as a mother and wife, and scrutinizes, with high intelligence and humor, just how far women have really come in the work world. If that makes the book sound polemical, it is anything but. It is delightfully fast moving and breathlessly readable, with dozens of laugh-aloud moments and many tenderly touching ones-and, for once in a book of this kind, there are some admirable men as well as plenty of bounders. Toward the end-to which a reader is reluctant to come-it becomes a little plot-bound, and everything is rounded off a shade too neatly. But as a hilarious and sometimes poignant update on contemporary women in the workplace, it's the book to beat.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 378 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; New Ed edition (December 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099428385
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099428381
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (391 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,359,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on December 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As a working mom logging in over 2,000 billable hours a year outside the home -- I couldn't put the book down. Obviously this book "spoke" to me on a very personal level. It was such a guilty pleasure to read -- when, like Kate, I had Holdiay cards to send, cookies to bake for the school Christmas party and matters of the family to attend to all after coming home from work at 10 pm. But, I'm not sure I would "get" this book or enjoy it much if I hadn't already walked a mile in Kate Reddy's shoes.
Of course this book is over the top -- doesn't it have to be to be entertaining? Even I found myself saying "I don't know how she does it." But there are many thoughts in the book that are right-on and thought provoking. Take for example Kate Reddy's observation that fathers that leave work early or schedule business around their family commitments are lauded as "involved fathers" when mothers doing the same are suspected of not being committed to their work or are seen as unreliable or unaccessible. Whether you are a mom working full-time outside the home or not, this and many other insights in the book highlight interesting social issues.
I would be interested to know whether this book appeals to stay-at-home moms. I suspect not based on the fact that many of my own stay-at-home friends have little interest in what my life is like and often think that a mother who works full-time outside the home is akin to a mother who eats her young.
As for mothers working full-time outside the home, this book is sure to be a winner and a welcomed comic relief. As for myself, I plan to give this book to my mother for Christmas to help her understand the dilemmas of being a professional and a mother of young children and the difficulty of "having it all".
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By A Customer on November 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Although I was totally engrossed in this novel, and thought that Kate was a very real and often sympathetic character, I ended up with very mixed feelings about this book. I am a mother who has temporarily given up a career I loved to stay at home with my kids. This wasn't an easy decision for me, and I would never criticize those who made a different decision (or who have no choice in the matter). I was shocked at the venomous comments about stay-at-home mothers from Kate and from other reviewers of this book. While I am sure that there are some stay-at-home mothers who take pleasure in making working mothers feel bad (they are probably the ones who are at-home because they feel like they should be, rather than because they want to be, and are miserable themselves), I believe that most of us have alot of sympathy for the sacrifices and trade-offs that working mothers are forced to make. And, frankly, most of us are too busy getting through our own days to worry about what others are doing. The descriptions of stay-at-home moms as spending all of their time at the gym, having manicures, writing notes for playdates, was just ludicrous. I have two toddlers and I feel incredibly lucky when I have the time to shower in the morning or get out for an hour by myself to go shopping. Being a stay-at-home mother isn't easy, neither is being a working mom, and I find it incredibly sad when we have to insult each other in order to feel better about our own choices.
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Format: Hardcover
I just devoured this book on a guilt-ridden business trip and identified so strongly with the character of Kate. It was the first time I have heard the working mom's voice articulated so clearly. I laughed out loud repeatedly on the plane and ultimately felt a little better about the decisions I have made in my life. A must-read.
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Format: Hardcover
What a terrific book! I've shamelessly stolen time and left other "must do" tasks to fend for themselves while I devoured this very smart, very funny, and piercingly accurate book.
I've read chunks of this book to my husband, to friends, and e-mailed selected tidbits to my sister. It's that good. ...Kate Reddy doesn't whine; she articulates, with wit and perception, what's so unspeakably tough about the shoes she's walking in. Even if they're fudge-colored pencil heels worn with an Armani suit as corporate armor!
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Format: Hardcover
As a working mom and mother of one, and another on the way, I was so looking forward to what promised to be a well-written, sardonic, biting look at the challenges of the modern-day working mom. I loved the first half, thought Kate Reddy was going to evolve into the working-mom's hero! Her writing was, in an over-the-top sort of way, dead-on to what many of us go through on a daily basis. But I kept waiting for the ending when she would march into her boss' office and demand that her job would have to be more flexible in order to accommodate her family life -- and instead we got total capitulation! I was crushed. As a securities analyst, in a pretty fast-paced and high profile job, I do believe we have to push our value to our companies and make them bend to accommodate. It's not easy, but many moms do have to work (or want to, or both!) and this book sends the same old "bad working mommy" message. I thought it would support the working mom, give us a laugh and tell us we're not alone in our challenges -- but instead what i heard in the end was the same old crap that you can't 'have it all'. That we should give up that working nonsense and get back in the kitchen where we belong! Or that if we are going to work, then work from home in a female-oriented line of work, etc. A total bummer for working women who were looking for a story and a heroine that they could relate to...
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