I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson

A quick rundown… Kate appears to have it all – career, house, husband, kids – but it’s a never ending juggling act. How can she keep doing it?

Strengths: Funny, interesting and there’s a part of Kate every woman can relate to.

Weaknesses: There’s not that many huge climaxes in the plot.

Why I read it: I kept seeing the poster for the movie on the way to work.

Pages: 384

Published: 2002

Publisher: Vintage

Setting: England with some travel thrown in

Rating: 8.5 out of 10


I Don’t Know How She Does It. How many times do women (and perhaps men too) say this about the woman who looks like she has it all? She’s the woman with the high flying career, gorgeous kids, loving husband and covetable shoes who just also happens to be able to churn out perfect character-iced cupcakes at the drop of a hat. I’m sure we all know someone like this. Sometimes we might even try to be that woman.

But do we ever stop and think just how damn hard it is to have your cake and eat it after slaving away all hours of the day? This is the story behind the scenes of that life many hanker for.

Meet Kate. She has an awesome career that allows her to fly around the world. She has a loving husband, children and a nanny. She has the big car, the big house and the big wardrobe. But behind these scenes, Kate is falling apart and so is her dream life. From staying up all hours to cook for a school cake sale (you can’t send shop bought stuff – imagine the reaction of the other mothers) to proving she’s just as good at the boys at her job, Kate is tired. Worn out. Starting to make a few bad decisions.

This is a book that doesn’t have a lot of plot climaxes but reveals the everyday struggle that it is for a woman to ‘have it all’. We can all relate to some – or all – of Kate’s calamities. Don’t write off this book as chick or mummy lit, it’s very humourous and incredibly true to life. It’s light, but carries a poignant message that we tell ourselves – we can’t have it all (but damn, we sure do try).

My only gripe with this book is that I felt the ending was a bit of a cop out, in that some characters did just what they were stereotypically expected to do. Others pleasingly fought against that – but we can’t have it all.

This book has recently been made into a film (I kept driving past the bus stop with the poster) starring the icon of a generation of females, Sarah Jessica Parker. I’d be interested to see how it translated, as a lot of Kate’s guilt was internal, not much was expressed to others. (She just didn’t have time for girlfriend chatter, okay?) The book is also set in London before the invention of the Blackberry and tablet that Kate’s carrying. Class and class expectations (e.g. private school, after school enrichment) are also firmly entrenched in this book – Kate’s upper middle class and again, she is expected to be just like the others in ticking off assets.

I can’t say I really related to Kate’s struggle with her children – first she misses being with them, then when she is with them she’s grumpy and frazzled – because I don’t have any. This book can be kind of exhausting in places, because it’s just one problem after another. Don’t tie yourself up in it and you’ll enjoy it.


2 thoughts on “I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson

Add yours

  1. I have four kids… and could totally relate to Kate! (especially the first scene with the ‘distressed’ mince pies!). The movie didn’t do the book justice – a lot was lost in translation, especially as they set the movie in NYC.

  2. I think I’d enjoy this one, I have seen the film previews. Nice review! I know what you mean, I don’t like the ending to be all tied up nice and sweet and feel like a cop out.

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