Review: Not Working by Lisa Owens

Not Working by Lisa Owens. Audiobook narrated by Tuppence Middleton.

Opening sentence: “There is a man standing outside my flat wearing khaki greens and a huge ‘Free Palestine’ badge.” 

Read by the wonderfully named Tuppence Middleton, I listened to Lisa Owen’s debut novel on audiobook and laughed out loud more than once on the train, drawing many a side-eye from my fellow passengers.

While being a comic read, this book also delves into thought-provoking topics. Narrated by Claire Flannery, she is in her late-twenties and has just quit her marketing job to try and find out what it is she actually wants to do with her life. Some areas she has sorted – she lives in her own flat with her trainee brain surgeon boyfriend, Luke, but in many others, including the big one – that elusive feeling of overall fulfilment – she is lost, confused, anxious and desperately trying to work out what she exactly wants.

All told in a deadpan, funny tone, this book is broken up into short diary-like vignettes, each with their own title. At first this narrative style is a little jarring, (especially to listen to as oppose to read) but I soon became accustomed to it and found that the disjointed presentation of the story perfectly reflected Claire’s all-over-the-place state of mind. It’s like when you meet a friend for a catch up and your conversation naturally segues down many paths before getting back to the main gist of the story. Not that there is a big story arc here, this is very much a character-focused book with Claire assessing her current situation, rather than anything major or dramatic happening.

I found both the structure and theme to be an accurate portrayal of the life-confusion that many of us (including me) have felt at some point, and as Claire enjoyed yet another glass of wine, I decided that I wouldn’t mind joining her in one. Yes, she is by no means perfect and a little self-absorbed (she also has the world’s most patient, forgiving boyfriend if her angsty outbursts are anything to go by), but I found her to be a relatable, funny character who actually had the balls to quit her mediocre job and attempt to discover her passion. You’ve got to admire her for that. Well, I did anyway.

I did wish there was more solid ending, as there wasn’t any real conclusion, just a continuation of the stream of Claire’s consciousness. Although, I suppose that is a fitting ending for a book that’s all about trying to navigate a path with no clear life-conclusion.

Rating: 3.5/5

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