My Not So Perfect Life
Cat Brenner has finally landed her dream job. Well, it’s an entry-level research assistant job. But it’s an actual job, not an internship. It’s in London, though Cat can’t quite afford to live there; she has a daily dreadful commute from her tiny shared flat in Catford. But it’s in London.
A job in smart, cosmopolitan London has always been Cat’s dream, ever since she was growing up in Somerset, England as Katie Brenner --- a red-cheeked country girl with curls. She didn’t realize what a country girl she was until she accidentally eavesdropped (in the bathroom stall, no less) on two co-workers at her first internship who mocked her rural accent. After that humiliation, Katie restyled herself as Cat. She straightened her hair, adopted a neutral accent, added glasses and a new urban (though sourced from flea markets) wardrobe. Then she got hired at Cooper Clemmow, the boutique branding design firm. Now she has a low-wage job, but at least her foot is in the door. And she has marvelous design ideas, if she can just get her boss to look at them.
"Sophie Kinsella’s latest book about a young woman facing unexpected and unplanned-for career challenges introduces us to charming heroine Cat/Katie."
Her bosszilla, Demeter Farlowe, is the most stylish, brilliant, fabulous woman. She is the earliest adopter of everything, owner of all the newest gadgets, attendee of every restaurant opening and premiere. And she doesn’t really remember Cat’s name. But Cat is thrilled when one day Demeter asks for her assistance on a special, rather unusual project. Cat is thrilled and thinks she’ll get to help on a rebranding project when Demeter hands her a box of Clairol Root Touch-Up. But she’s horrified when she realizes that Demeter wants Cat to color her roots, since she can’t make her hairdresser appointment.
Cat wants to climb the ladder, so she takes a deep breath, gets Demeter a towel, and starts painting her boss’s roots with the Clairol. As she does this, she tries to make impressive conversation about the hot restaurants that are opening or her mock-up ideas for one of the company’s clients. As it turns out, it is to no avail. For all the humiliation she feels at performing the hair dye on her boss, it gains her nothing. Demeter unceremoniously fires Cat a few days later, in the elevator of all places.
Cat decides to head back home to her dad’s place in Somerset after numerous job applications yield nothing. Her dad has always been an idea man, full of flash-in-the-pan schemes that generally fall flat. But this time, he and his partner, Biddy, have an idea that just might work. They want to open a glamping (glamorous camping) site on their beautiful farm in the West Country of England. They had originally asked Cat (who has returned to her original name of Katie) to join with them as a partner; with her in charge of branding and promotion, they’re sure their glamping business will take off. When she returns home, jobless, she can’t bear to tell her father, so she says she’s consulting for Cooper Clemmow as she shapes both the actual resort and the promotional materials defining Ansters Farm. In the meantime, she fills out as many job applications as possible on the sly.
Katie’s marketing efforts pay off remarkably. Bookings are constant; appreciative guests pay handsomely to be pampered by Katie, her dad and Biddy; and Mr. Brenner, as “Farmer Mick,” charms the parents and children. Katie is settling into her life and enjoying helping out (while secretly sending out as many job feelers as possible). Then, to her utter dismay, she finds out that her old boss, along with Demeter’s perfect husband and perfect children, have reservations for the next week. How is she going to keep her secret?
Katie decides to go all out as the country farm girl, the opposite of her former urban identity. She is shocked when Demeter has no idea who she is. And the germ of an idea formulates in her mind. Maybe this is her opportunity to dish out a little revenge.
Sophie Kinsella’s latest book about a young woman facing unexpected and unplanned-for career challenges introduces us to charming heroine Cat/Katie. Katie’s pluck and perseverance, as well as her unfailing sense of humor and hope for the future, take her back and forth from her country home to her beloved London. There just might be a fabulous job and an amazing future (not to mention a new love interest) for her there…if she can just endure her horrible boss!
Reviewed by Melanie Reynolds on February 10, 2017