Book review: Not Working

Feeling a little trapped and unsure of her future in her chosen career, Claire leaves her job and embarks on several months of soul-searching as she works out what, exactly, she wants her life to look like…

As soon as I spotted Not Working, with its protagonist sharing my name and there being something of a parallel between her situation and mine (granted, a sketchy one at best – I opted to take a career break and left still loving teaching…Book-Claire’s exit is rather less managed and happy), I knew I wanted to read it. Mad shout out the the brilliant cover art, by the way – it’s so eye catching and vivid.

Parts of the book I loved. The episodic set out of the chapters made for an interesting and fun way of splitting up the action, and Owens’ observations of London are great – I especially liked the snippets of Claire’s journeys on the Tube and on the buses. Truly all human life can be observed on the lines and routes of Transport for London.

I can’t say I loved the book though, and there’s one main reason for this. Claire. I found her unsympathetic, spoiled and selfish, and as the book progressed I almost felt myself willing her to have a big crisis so she’d wisen up and realise that she needed to buck her ideas up. It’s quite something to find yourself murmuring out loud at a character. Particularly when you share a name with them. It probably didn’t help that due to the ‘snippets’ format a few bigger conflicts never really got resolved, and as the book drew to a close I found myself disappointed that some of the larger plotlines kind of fell by the wayside as the finish line approached.

Not Working is a decent debut, and Owens is clearly a talented writer – I cannot wait to read more, because I think with some more interesting characters (either nicer ones, or nastier) and a meatier plot she’d create something really special. With a protagonist like the milquetoast, wine-soaked Claire, however, this book left me wanting more.

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