(Chatto & Windus, £12.99, 357pp)

I Don't Know How She Does It, by Allison Pearson

Big house, big salary, big fuss. Joan Smith loses patience with a poor little rich girl

Kate Reddy is a fund manager, a wife and the mother of two small children. Every morning she has to wrench herself away from her big house in Hackney and plunge into the intensely competitive atmosphere of the City. She is tired, short-tempered and guilty about leaving her children in the care of a nanny, a story she tells as a diary. Here, in the spirit of female solidarity evoked by the novel, is an excerpt from mine:

2.15 pm: Start reading I Don't Know How She Does It.

2.43 pm: Throw up over self-regarding heroine, long-suffering husband, improbable lover and cute kids.

It hardly needs saying that Reddy is Bridget Jones 10 years on, even if the ages do not quite work. We are in the territory of mid-30s female angst, and any woman not a pining singleton – characterised by a mother as "the childless enemy" – is knocking herself out trying to have it all. Men are useless in a variety of different ways, from husbands who cannot load a dishwasher to predatory City types who lust after Reddy's job rather than her body.

The exception is an American called Jack Abelhammer (really) who is transformed in a few pages from Kate's most difficult client to an admirer who feeds her erotic fantasies without actually expecting sex. When Kate decides to give up work and move to the country to save her marriage, he accepts his dismissal with perplexing meekness. The veneer of modernity is maintained by the use of e-mail but Jack's valediction – "The great thing about unrequited love is it's the only kind that lasts" – is straight out of Eric Segal's slushy Love Story.

Allison Pearson's novel began life as a series of columns in the Daily Telegraph, where it offered a supposedly humorous portrait of the difficulties facing a working mother, and the film rights have been sold to Miramax. It is being promoted as a tale for our times, with women readers invited to see their own dilemmas reflected in the comic disasters and pained introspection that are Reddy's lot. This is assuming a great deal, for Reddy is very much a metropolitan media creation, existing in a world where everyone accepts unquestioningly that trading in foreign currencies is a fantastically important job.

In that sense, her burdens seem self-imposed from the beginning. This is more a novel about the tyranny of affluence than the problem of combining work and motherhood. We are even invited to view Reddy's ludicrous workload as a form of altruism, motivated by the necessity to provide for two children whose care and education apparently cost about the same as running a small African state.

To arrive at larger conclusions from this extreme set of circumstances would be perilous, yet that is what the main character invites us to do. If the men in the novel overlook her heroic efforts, she certainly makes up for it herself, indulging in a conspiracy of mutual self-pity with her female friends.

Most of the themes of Seventies feminism appear here in populist form, with men infantilised, denigrated and finally idealised, as they always are in romantic novels. What really characterises Kate Reddy is a toxic combination of solipsism and sentimentality, especially where children are concerned. (My first queasy moment arrives when she stands outside her sleeping daughter's bedroom, listening to her "princess sighs".)

It is also a book without politics, except of the blandest sort, amounting to little more than a suggestion that capitalism could be nicer to women. This is all the more disheartening because Allison Pearson is a talented, intelligent journalist, who might have been expected to produce something more ambitious in her first attempt at fiction. Worse things have happened to women than having to choose, as her heroine eventually does, between living in a big house in London or one with a paddock in Derbyshire.

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there