(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
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper, Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson on stage

film
Arts and Entertainment

Grace Dent on TV

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
art

‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat

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.

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us