ALLISON PEARSON

As almost everyone knows by now, this book is a diary of Kate Reddy, who holds down a power job in London while trying to have a life. The writing is magnificent: lots of little gems, some of which might get censored in an online review. Don't miss her description of hanging out in the kitchen with her inlaws at Christmas.

This book can be read on several levels. I must admit I was exhausted at first, just reading about Kate's efforts to juggle her life. Being single and childless, I can only admire the fortitude of working mothers who really do try to "do everything." And I was disappointed in the ending, where Kate does seem to walk away from a part of herself.

I couldn't help wishing this couple would go to marriage counseling! Kate and her husband seem to have different values and her abrasiveness can be annoying, even to the reader who is rooting for her. Marriages like this one -- very strong wife, kind supportive husband -- usually do not last without outside help.

I also wanted to encourage Kate to hire a coach to help her set priorities and develop some assertiveness. Her friend and colleague at work, Candy, even teases her about being too quick to say yes and to accept tough jobs with no compensation. When Kate says, "Nobody got bonuses," Candy says, "And you believe that?" Either Candy is a saboteur rather than a true friend, or Kate has contributed to her own powerlessness.

While some women (and men) will be appalled at the crudity of Kate's boss, I think the author is just being realistic. The securities industry was always known for its machismo, as described in Michael Lewis's Liar's Poker. A senior woman like Kate will have less access to legalistic harassment remedies than a clerk-typist -- and Kate makes this point herself. She has to choose: a job or a lawsuit. The fact that her boss is an Australian adds to the realism: the author understands the male-female dynamic of "down under."

Even if you get frustrated, it will be hard to stop turning the pages. There is suspense created by the author ("How will Kate get out of this mess?") but, more important, the underlying theme: How much of Kate's stress is created by her dual roles -- and how much by her own assertiveness and coping skills?


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