My Not So Perfect Life: A Novel by Sophie KinsellaMy Not So Perfect Life: A Novel by Sophie Kinsella

My Not So Perfect Life: A Novel

bySophie Kinsella

Hardcover | February 7, 2017

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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
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.
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Title:My Not So Perfect Life: A NovelFormat:HardcoverDimensions:448 pages, 8.52 × 5.8 × 1.33 inPublished:February 7, 2017Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:081299826X

ISBN - 13:9780812998269

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from one of my favorite Sophia Kinsella novels ...BUY IT!!! One of my favorite Sophia Kinsella novels by far. Katie is such a character that we all can relate to. We have all been there for sure. She's quirky she's loyal and she's adorable. This heartwarming portrayal of a 30 something is a must read. Sophia totally gets it and lets us be Katie and reminds some of us that we were Katie cause life does moves on we do get older but we were there like her struggling to find ourselves to be the best we can for our future to reach for the stars or not. In the middle of that the family is there to ground us or remind us or nurture us. I definitely 100% recommend this book.
Date published: 2017-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love Kinsella never lets me down, great book. Entertaining and light, funny read. Would definitely reccomend.
Date published: 2017-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Such a fantastic read! This is definitely one of my favourite Kinsella novels! Although I love Sophie Kinsella's novels, I was beginning to get a little tired of her protagonists, and how they all seem to have a similar voice and personality. I was very pleasantly surprised by this one, and I found her main protagonist to be very refreshing. The plot was great, as usual, as were all the funny, quirky scenes throughout the novel. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-08-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Just okay Your classic story of a small town girl trying to make it in the big city. The characters were likeable enough and the premise was cheesy. I liked that Katie stayed true to who she was instead of becoming a materialistic Londoner.
Date published: 2017-08-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it This is probably my favourite stand-alone novel by Kinsella. Absolutely loved it!
Date published: 2017-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sweet Definitely something to ponder over...
Date published: 2017-08-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Perfect! This is a perfect, easy to read summer book! #plumreview
Date published: 2017-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great read! I really loved this book. One of my favorite reads this year!
Date published: 2017-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun! I enjoyed this book. Another great story of Sophie Kinsella! Light and cute this the perfect book to read this summer.
Date published: 2017-06-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Finally! I'm a long time fan of her books but haven't enjoyed the recent Shopoholic books as much as the earlier ones. I really enjoyed this book!
Date published: 2017-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Finally! I'm a long time fan of her books but haven't enjoyed the recent Shopoholic books as much as the earlier ones. I really enjoyed this book!
Date published: 2017-06-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fun This book left me missing my time in London. It was a good light hearted read. This was the first of her books I ever read and it reminded me of Cecelia Ahern.
Date published: 2017-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Book! Really enjoyed reading this book! With every Sophie Kinsella book, I feel like I get transported into another world. If you liked the Undomestic Goddess, you will like this book as well, as there are some similarities.
Date published: 2017-06-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun & Cute Such an easy quick read; Funny, cute and just awesome. One of may favorites this year!
Date published: 2017-06-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Cool This book was mad funny and quirky, pretty much its an awesome read :)
Date published: 2017-05-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fun Read Enjoyed this book, it was a fun easy read. Kinsella has once again made me laugh out loud. Her characters always have an interesting way of dealing with their struggles.
Date published: 2017-05-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Loved it! I found the main character to be truly relatable and the author really allowed work life and home life to be realistic as should be written regardless.
Date published: 2017-05-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fun read! This was an enjoyable story from start to finish! Kinsella did a great job bringing to life every day struggles like fitting in, living our lives on social media, getting along with colleagues and bosses, and of course, romantic woes. I also had some good laughs along the way! In typical Sophie Kinsella fashion, I finished this book feeling light and cheery. I'd definitely recommend for your next summer read!
Date published: 2017-05-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved! Sophie Kinsella is always a tried and true favourite author of mine so when I saw she had published a new novel, I wanted to read it ASAP. This novel didn't disappoint. It had her typical style of writing making the characters relatable, the story entertaining, and the humor...oh, the laughs. Another thing I found amazing about this story is that I found it unpredictable. I didn't know where the story was going to go next. Alex? I didn't know if I was going to love him or hate him. Demeter: the same. Plus, for the longest time I had no idea what was going on with Demeter's emails and who was involved (I'm being vague because I don't want to give anything away). Really enjoyed this novel and I can't wait for what Sophie Kinsella has coming next!
Date published: 2017-05-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Fun read I liked this book. It was a light fun read that I think really reflects the way a lot of people feel because of social media. Its easy to look at someones profile and assume their life is exactly what you want, or present yourself in a way you hope people will perceive you. I just wish the ending had been a little less obvious, a little less perfect.
Date published: 2017-05-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Funny and cute All of her books have the same vibe to them. If you enjoy a light, cute, funny story, then this author is for you!
Date published: 2017-05-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from good read. Although not my favorite Sophie Kinsella book, still good read.
Date published: 2017-05-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! Sophie Kinsella's books are light, funny, and enjoyable!
Date published: 2017-05-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Super funny! This Sophie Kinsella story did not disappoint! Very funny and light-hearted read :)
Date published: 2017-05-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So good I did not read any of the shopaholic series.. I very much enjoyed this book it was a bit of a slow start but then I could not put it down. Really felt every character of this book I really enjoyed it. Nice easy read #plumreview
Date published: 2017-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lovely I read her previous books and enjoyed them very much, so I was excited to pick up this one after the good reviews it gained. Absolutely amazing. I can't put together words to describe how much I love her writing and character development (and hilarious awkward moments).
Date published: 2017-05-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fun I'm glad Kinsella picked up her game with these solo books. I did NOT enjoy Wedding Night nor What's My Number. I almost gave up on her entirely but this book made up for it.
Date published: 2017-04-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Cute Read This was a cute easy read. There was some funny parts in the book. The characters and mishaps were similar to the shopaholic series. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-04-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not Sophie's best I love Sophie's books, but this one was too cliché and obvious for me I just didn't enjoy it, in fact I nearly didn't finish it. I'd still recommend this book as everyone is different, maybe I'll try reading it again in summer and who knows I might feel differently about it then! The Undomestic Goddess is still a firm favourite.
Date published: 2017-04-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great story I like the premise behind this book.
Date published: 2017-04-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I loved this book! I love this author! And this book is no different than the others! I loved it!
Date published: 2017-04-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from What a story! A nice addition to your library.
Date published: 2017-04-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Classic Kinsella Novel! I always go to Sophie when I need a light, airy feel-good read and this novel certainly did not disappoint! A little predictable in places, especially if you have read the Shopoholic series but serves as an excellent 'palate-cleanser' if you've been reading some of the heavier social injustice novels or even some of the popular thrillers. The novel surrounds a slightly flawed but overall likeable character as she navigates London life and alters her personal truth to fit in a little better. Definitely would recommend!
Date published: 2017-04-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love it! I love all of Sophie Kinsella's books and this book did not disappoint. If you are a Sophie fan you should definately read this book!
Date published: 2017-04-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A Little Slow Very similar to all her other books. A lite read.
Date published: 2017-04-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it A great novel to read for all ages.
Date published: 2017-04-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Just okay It starts off with some interesting thoughts on social media, but then it just turns into a typical love story. I would have loved to see more depth, but I would still recommend this novel.
Date published: 2017-04-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Just picked up this book Can't wait to sink my teeth to a new Sophie Kinsella book
Date published: 2017-04-05
Rated 1 out of 5 by from bored i really can't get into most sophie kinsella novels.
Date published: 2017-04-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good A nice read in typical Sophie Kinsella fashion. Any longtime fan of hers will really enjoy it. I felt like some parts were a little dragged. Overall it's an enjoyable light read.
Date published: 2017-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Knock Out Book I love her books. I have all the ones she's written under this name. This is one is great. I don't want to spoil anything so i'll leave it at that!
Date published: 2017-03-28
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Got bored fast. I've enjoyed her books in the past. This one is just too far fetched. I got bored quickly. Would not recommend this book.
Date published: 2017-03-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Quick and Addictive Read A quick and addictive read, this book takes an interesting look at our perceptions of our own and others lives in a funny and heart warming way. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-03-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not Like Shopaholic Books I think if you dismiss this author based on her Shopaholic series that would be a mistake. Although she is most well known for that series, I think those are her least enjoyable books to read. In this book there is a societal message behind it. The concept that what appears on the surface is not really the true picture. That just because someone looks perfect and seems to lead a charmed life that may not really be the case. The reality is that everyone has their issues. Also there is a part of the book that is hilarious in that you can tell the author is poking fun at how people buy into the hype of things no matter how ridiculous it may be. It reminded me of lifestyle websites such as Goop and some of the preposterous things that may be promoted but people buy into it. You'll know what I mean when you get to that part of the book.
Date published: 2017-03-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Quick and Addictive Read A quick and addictive read, this book takes an interesting look at our perceptions of our own and others lives in a funny and heart warming way. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-03-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Entertaining Read Not as funny as her other books but very entertaining. The characters are believable and relatable. Strong relationships and character development throughout. VERY satisfying ending. Overall a quick and good read.
Date published: 2017-03-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from So funny! Sophia Kinsella never disappoints!! This story is very entertaining and funny. I especially enjoyed the topic of social media and how the character wishes her life would be as interesting as her instagram posts. The message of how not everyone's life is as bright and shiny as what they post online was such a great theme. A quick, funny little read. Recommended!
Date published: 2017-03-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Accurate Accurate depiction of two people with very different lives and the observations made.
Date published: 2017-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from loved this I love all her books and this one does not disappoint.
Date published: 2017-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Entertaining Loved this book; funny and entertaining although not one of my favourite novels by Sophie Kinsella.
Date published: 2017-03-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from cute cute but very predictable and similar to her other books
Date published: 2017-03-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Typical... I have always enjoyed reading Sophie Kinsella books. They are light reads and I can generally get through the book fairly quickly. I found this book to be a decent read, but find the stories all starting to blend into very similar topics. It was an ok book.
Date published: 2017-03-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Run of the Mil Well it's a Kinsella novel so it's very predictable and cheesy but even so it was adorable and fun to read. I love the London scene and it was a nice escape.
Date published: 2017-03-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not so Perfect i finished reading Sophie's new book and i must say, it's not as good as her previous books but it was still something i enjoyed reading. Still has the humour in it which made the book! Anyone who likes Sophie's book will surely enjoy this one! #PLUMREVIEW
Date published: 2017-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it Kinsella knocks it out of the park again. I love her books!
Date published: 2017-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely Delightful Another great read from the fun mind of Sophie! Loved it!
Date published: 2017-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Kinsella Perfection This book was everything I wanted it to be. It's a light and easy quick read that really delivers. The characters are entirely relatable, especially Katie. The idea that so many individuals feel the need to create an ideal online presence is an issue that is extremely relevant in 2017. I enjoyed the fact that the romantic storyline wasn't the main message of this book but was still there. And for a chick lit novel there was a real message that sticks: be yourself. I've found the last couple stand alone Kinsella novels to be a bit disappointing; however, this one hooked me right away and kept me wanting to read more.
Date published: 2017-03-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Another Classic Kinsella Book Really enjoyed this light read! I found it had a similar storyline to Kinsella's other books (especially the Undomestic Goddess) but still would recommend for those who love chick lit!
Date published: 2017-03-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Charming - As Always Sophie Kinsella books never fail to make me laugh, and this one was no exception. As always, Kinsella created characters which are relatable, funny, and completely entertaining. Her main character, Katie, is very concerned with her self-image, and presents herself as being totally together, when she is falling apart on the inside. I loved reading about her journey through the good and the bad, and I laughed out loud at some of her most embarrassing moments. Not to mention that there is a wonderful love story that leaves you feeling happy!
Date published: 2017-03-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Hilarious! If you are already fan of Sophie Kinsella, this book will not disappoint and if this is your first read of hers, it will make you a fan! This book is hilarious from the very beginning. I only gave it 4 stars because at times, some of the characters were a little unbelievable. Great easy fun read.
Date published: 2017-03-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A new type of heroine for Kinsella novels! Sophie Kinsella has created another quirky and out of the box heroine. Katie is definitely different than many of the other characters in Kinsella's other novels; she is not quite as wild, eccentric and clumsy as the others. In addition, Katie doesn't seem to "fall" into things by chance but deliberately goes out to make a name for herself, wanting to climb the social and business ladders that she knows exist. I will say that I did miss some of the self depreciating humour that is so evident in Kinsella's other novels. I wished Katie was a bit more embarrassing, had a few more BIG mistakes and at least one or two "I can't imagine how humiliating that would be" moments. On the other hand, she IS different and I can appreciate the value in not creating the same type of characters over and over again. The one character in who did disappoint me was Alex. At first I love his spontaneous and fun vibe but he sort of lost that as the story went on and in the end came across as just needing to be constantly uplifted emotionally. There were too many gaps in the romance for me to make me give it a 5 star for that alone, but I enjoyed the book so much that overall I think it deserves a 5. It was a super fun read and I would definitely recommend it!
Date published: 2017-02-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great! I've read all of Sophie Kinsella's books (except the ones she wrote as Madeline Wickham) and truly enjoyed her 1 shot books! The female lead in this one is smart, ambitious and slightly naive - really refreshing!
Date published: 2017-02-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love love love I was hooked from the first page. Very captivating... Quick and easy readt
Date published: 2017-02-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I loved it! This was such a great weekend read, it reads quickly and easy. The story is cute, I would recommend this novel.
Date published: 2017-02-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Great Read! I thoroughly enjoyed this book - I finished it in less than 2 days! It makes for a great weekend read.
Date published: 2017-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another awesome read! I love this book, just another great read by this fab author!
Date published: 2017-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good book Very funny and interesting
Date published: 2017-02-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from want!!! can't wait to read. love sophie kinsella
Date published: 2017-02-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Funny light read This was a great weekend read, it is a funny and will keep you interested.
Date published: 2017-02-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Funny and poignant Sophie Kinsella still has the magic for writing winning stories. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Date published: 2017-02-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great, fun read **This book was provided to me by the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own** First off, I love Sophie Kinsella... LOVE! I believe I have read every single one of her books and just love her ability to weave a story and keep the reader engaged in every aspect of it so it comes as no surprise that I absolutely adored "My (Not So) Perfect Life". You know that feeling you get when you start a book and already, on page one, you know that you are going to be in for a good read? I got that feeling when I was reading this book. There is something about stories that take place in London that grip me and when you add such loveable characters, like Katie (or Cat or Cath), into the mix, it's a recipe for success. In fact, all of the characters really are wonderful... each of them have their own personality which add a certain element to the overall flow of the story. Whether you love or hate them, they really grow on you as the book progresses and I found myself rooting for the people I had least expected. I also like that the book was broken into two parts... a London storyline and a Somerset (or country) storyline. While I did enjoy the London part of the story, my favourite part was when Katie moved to the country... I can't even imagine what it would be like to go from a city-loving girl to finding yourself, back at home, in the middle of your families latest money-making adventure. I found myself smiling and laughing out loud as Katie took her 'Glampers' on crazy adventures and used some of that pent-up frustration to get back at her, more privileged, guests. As with most chick-lit books, there is going to be a romantic aspect to the story but I really like that Sophie Kinsella doesn't shove it down your throat. It wasn't a 'romance' book and the relationship that developed really was more of a behind the scenes story... it also didn't follow that usual recipe for romance which I really appreciated. Now, that said, it doesn't take a genius to figure out how things go but, I will say that I was very happy come the end of the book. Before I wrap up this review, I wanted to touch on the underlying message that I found running through the book and that is of the 'perfect life' that we see so much in social media. The life that people WANT you to see... I thought it was brilliant that Katie had a 180 degree spin in her thoughts on how social media works. It's so true that what you see isn't always the true story. Nobody wants you to see the heaps of dirty laundry, the messy stove, the couches covered in animal hair (speaking from experience here)... everybody wants to give the illusion that their lives are perfect. So, THANK YOU Sophie for making that a theme in your novel, I found it humbling to know that so many will read that and hopefully feel better about their own lives and the way they present themselves to other people. xx Overall, if you are a fan, in any way, of Sophie Kinsella, this book is a must. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am already chomping at the bit for her next book to come out!
Date published: 2017-02-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Perfect Sunday Read I love Sophie Kinsella's books - I find her writing funny and engaging, and heroines are great to root for.
Date published: 2017-02-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyable I have given up on the Shopaholic series by the same author because the main character in those books has not evolved over the years and I can't stand her. I find a lot of Kinsella's female protagonists tend to be in the same mold...always bright and cheery but not very bright. (Why can't she write about an intelligent female looking for love? They exist too!) But I was pleasantly surprised with this novel. While the main character Katie/Cat is still a *little* naive (and I stress the work little), she is much more likable and a lot stronger than previous Kinsella characters. I found I really enjoyed Katie's story. It was much more realistic to be honest. Who hasn't wished they lived someone else's life? We all think "the grass is greener" on the other side but this novel proves that you can never judge someone on outward appearances. Everyone has their own, secret struggle, something many of us often forget. For that, I found this to be a refreshing, light read. Definitely recommend!
Date published: 2017-02-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Kinsella is back and better than ever Farm raised Katie Brenner has arrived - she's living her dreams in London, having a paid job at a branding (advertising) agency and she's known as Cat. All is not as rosy as her social media posts report but that's not going to stop her, especially when she meets an amazing guy at the elevators at work. Katie's Dad and StepMum have a vision to convert her childhood home into Ansters Farm Country Retreat. With her branding skills and enthusiasm the results are so fast and so amazing that when they call Katie and suggest a sabbatical from the agency to allow Katie to come home and help run the place it's perfect timing! From the crowded tube (subway) to the fields of sheep, Cat/Katie is determined that no-one will see her 'not my perfect life'. Perfection isn't as wonderful as it is made out to be and Katie learns to stand up and make choices that make her happy. A lovely novel that flows well and keeps you turning pages when laughter offsets disappointments. I received a copy of this book from Random House through Net Galley in return for an honest review. 5/5
Date published: 2017-02-07

Read from the Book

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof*** Copyright © 2017 Sophie KinsellaMY NOT SO PERFECT LIFE / SOPHIE KINSELLA  CHAPTER ONE 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.Wh—What?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.Kind of.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.”“For tomorrow.”“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.”“What?”“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.

Editorial Reviews

“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  “The book is fun, as Kinsella’s books are, but it delivers a strong positive message, as well. . . . Kinsella creates a solid, likable character—one that I got to know and root for throughout the book.”—Fairfield Daily Republic   “This is a really funny and relatable story about working women, women’s relationships with each other and one plucky heroine’s journey. This is a perfect pick-me-up.”—The Parkersburg News and Sentinel   “[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   “This latest stand-alone from bestselling author Kinsella is top-notch, thanks to a lovable, slightly flawed leading lady, many true-life situations, and loads of giggle-inducing humor. As Bridget Jones would say, ‘Well done!’”—Library Journal“Another outstanding novel . . . a perfect combination of fun, laughable moments rounded out with some deep-seated family and relationship issues.”—Booklist“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