Review: In Office Hours

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: In Office HoursIn Office Hours by Lucy Kellaway
Published by Grand Central on February 7, 2011
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

IN OFFICE HOURS is the story of Stella and Bella, two intelligent working women who each fall for impossible lovers--at work. Kellaway's keen observations on the way in which affairs move from state to state areĀ a sort of masterclass in office love, bringing to life both the excitement of illicitĀ romance and the ridiculousness of business behavior and language with a sharp sense of humor.

IN OFFICE HOURS is intelligent, funny, moving and agonizing, but it's also so painfully reconizable to any woman who has ever worked in an office or ever been in love. Kellaway hits a real nerve with her depictions of how people come to get into the emotional messes that we do and then how very difficult it is to get out again.

Stella is in her mid-forties, happily married with two children, and seriously successful at work. She is the only female executive at AE, a big oil company. Bella is in her late twenties/early thirties, a single mom, and works as a personal assistant (also at AE). Bella’s boss, Julia, is fired because she had an affair with another man at the company. The story is told alternatively from both of their perspectives. The similarity in their names seems unnecessary in the context and leads largely to confusion; it’s not like the parallels between their lives would have been difficult to see without this connection.

I expected this to be a chick lit novel about office romance. Although chick lit has not been my genre of choice for a number of years, a good one here and there can be quite enjoyable. Office romances are a bad idea in general, but it’s not like they don’t happen. Still, this could have been a different book.

This novel seems to suggest three things.

  1. Adultery happens. A lot. At least, if you’re high-powered in a company.
  2. Age gaps are hot. Successful women will date younger men and successful men will date younger women.
  3. Women cannot focus on work in the midst of an affair, but men can.

The last of the three is the one that really pisses me off. During Stella’s affair with her subordinate, he still manages to get his job done, but she mentions many times how little she cares about work compared to her trysts. She constantly skives off work for a rendezvous and is extremely non-productive. Despite that, she gets promoted and receives accolades for her excellent performance. Is this because even when half-mad with obsession she does amazing work or because the standards for female employees are lower and no one notices? Meanwhile, Bella seems to do very little, as her position was created so she can stay in the department with her cheating boss. She constantly invents reasons to go to his office and sends whiny text messages wondering why he is cold to her at the office.

Bella and Stella both obsess about their men constantly. The men certainly seem interested too, but are they really agonizing over whether a text message ends with an x? I just could not deal with how childish and absurd all of the people in this book were.

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