Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Office affairs - oh, the angst!

Lucy Kellaway is a Financial Times columnist. I first got to know her via her voice in the witty little pieces about business life that she records for the BBC.
Turns out she's a good novelist as well. I just read her In Office Hours and can highly recommend it for a holiday read. Or a curled-up-on-the- couch read. You might label it 'chick lit' if it wasn't Lucy at the helm, but she overcomes what could be a standard office-affairs theme by being really dry, witty and her inimitable manner. In Office Hours is office politics writ large, set against the backdrop of London City machinations, the GFC, and corporate and banking greed. Ironically - for she must have written it before the Gulf oil spill and the tarnishing of BP's reputation - it is set within the head office of a rapacious oil company that she tags Atlantic Energy.
She has two main characters who are (slightly annoyingly) called Stella and Bella, but you quickly get to grips with their linked but separate dramas.
Stella is the senior exec appalled to find herself having it off with a junior, many-years-younger male assistant; Bella is the struggling junior office assistant and solo mum feeling the tug of illicit excitement with her male, much-older married boss. Kellaway niftily exposes the different tensions and attitudes evoked by these unequal relationships.
It's agonising and funny, all at the same time, and accompanied by the churning of feverish emails and texts. Which is of course the modern, and often hazardous way.
It also points out how damn annoying Microsoft can be. There's Stella, struggling to write an emotionally laden email that's ripping her heart out, when up pops a smarmy on-screen message from the 'assistant' - "it looks like you're trying to write a letter. Would you like help?"

No comments: