A break from the stresses of life: Not Working – by Lisa Owens

Fictional Memoir, Romance

It’s three weeks into the term and I’m itching to read something other than a textbook or assigned reading. Usually it’s the tv show de jour that gets in the way of my reading, but for the first time ever, it’s sleep – or rather, school work – that’s stopping me. I need to escape, to be whisked away to another world, another life. But every time I pick up a book, my eyes glaze over as I struggle to stay focused. Even when reading, I can’t escape. I know these are just the tell-tale signs of a book rut, but I don’t see a way out!

That is, until I spot the cheery, bright blue cover in the library practically screaming out for me to pick it up. The title, too, draws me in: ‘Not Working’. Sounds perfect for me – almost eerily so. I turn to the blurb and find that, whilst it seems targeted to a slightly older demographic, I’m nonetheless intrigued and eager to at least give it a go – what do I have to lose, right? The other book I picked up was Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, and I wasn’t about to start on that any time soon (or at least not during term time).

I soon discovered Not Working was the kind of book I could pick up, enjoy, put down and not feel especially drawn to pick it up later. It was, as I’d hoped for, an easy read, a welcome escape, but I didn’t feel invested in the story. As suggested by the blurb, I struggled to relate to the protagonist: Claire, a woman in her late twenties, early thirties who’s just left her job to search for her true calling – whatever that may be. It turns out she really has no idea, and considers careers as offbeat as authoring blue plaques and screenwriting – despite having never previously shown an interest in either. Meanwhile, her neurosurgeon boyfriend continues to work hard; although he supports her completely in her ‘journey’, she nonetheless resents being in his shadow – always ‘Luke’s girlfriend’, she longs to be a person in her own right, someone making a real difference in the world.

Whilst I found it hard to empathise with Claire’s problems, I loved reading about her nonetheless. I increasingly found her voice soothing, like chatting with an old friend: she’s honest, funny, self-deprecating. Unlike so many ‘finding yourself’ books, Not Working features absolutely no meditation, yoga or travel to exotic lands. Claire doesn’t take herself too seriously and it makes for an easy, enjoyable read. She’s an average person – average looks, average intelligence, average character. But whilst that may sound unappealing, that’s exactly what makes her so endearing – she represents so many women who’ve felt inadequate or lacking in purpose. Suffering a quarter-life crisis she searches hopelessly for a job that may not exist: the perfect job for her, tailor-fitted for her talents and desires.

Although incredibly easy to read, especially as the chapters themselves are split up into short sections, Not Working is long and slow up until the last quarter. The writing can be monotonous and uninteresting which, although perhaps accurately depicts Claire’s life, is not especially entertaining to read. And whilst the end is riveting, it leaves much frustratingly unresolved! I have so many questions that I won’t delineate for fear of spoiling, but I can confidently say I was left unsatisfied by this book.

Still, I enjoyed this book immensely; it was exactly what I needed. If you’re looking for the next literary canon book, perhaps this isn’t for you. However, if you love books like Bridget Jones’ Diary you’ll definitely enjoy Not Working.

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAAAA (6)

Writing: AAAAA (5)

Pace: Medium/Slow

Buy at Waterstones (UK)

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Buy at Barnes & Noble (US)

Buy on Amazon (US)