I must have read Pearson’s having-it-all novel, “I Don’t Know How She Does It” before I started this blog (originally on LiveJournal) as I can’t find a review of it on here. I remembered it as being light reading and mis-remembered it as including an actual affair, but I was intrigued enough to request this sequel from NetGalley when it came to my attention. In this novel, we meet Kate and her family a few years on, and it features all sorts of up-to-the-minute issues around social media, the sandwich generation and coping with ageing, just as of-its-time as the original.

We pick up with Kate Reddy as she’s 49, her husband has become one of those annoying cycling-obsessives who cares more about his bike and lycra than he does about his family, her son communicates more with his mates across the ether than with them, her daughter takes a ‘belfie’ and regrets it, and both sets of parents are ageing dramatically and heart-breakingly: she is thus part of the ‘sandwich generation’ caught between the needs of those above and below her in the family.

Quite a lot of the set pieces on not being able to cope with new technologies (I am a few years younger than the heroine and not so flummoxed, so this read a bit oddly to me), elderly parents and kids today felt a little  bit cliched, kind of making her the Tony Parsons / Angry Old Woman of commercial fiction. This might be a bit harsh, but I expected a little more subtlety. However, there are some brave and shocking parts to the book (the scene involving a sudden period is not for the faint-hearted but is unique as far as I know and probably entirely necessary [note: you can get a lovely mini-pill from the doctor that sorts out this kind of thing and she does discuss HRT, legal and shady]) and there are some really lovely turns of phrase, for example, when at a university reunion, they discover one old friend has had cancer: “Deb and I both reach out to her as if she, or we, were falling, and put our hands on her arms”. She is good in general on the nuances of female friendship.

There’s a cheeky nod to her first title at one point and fans will cheer when Kate appears to finally get what she’s wanted for some time, or gets one over on her very silly boss. And there’s a real crusading feeling about a) helping younger women not make the same mistakes and b) reflecting women’s experience of peri/menopause back to them in a work of commercial fiction for which real credit is due (she worked with a menopause expert and campaigner to get these details just right). The reader is one step ahead of the narrator at quite a few points in the book and this gives a satisfying read. Essential if you want to know what happened to the family from “I Don’t Know How She Does It”. And the animals are OK.

Thank you to HarperFiction for providing a review copy electronically for an honest review.