Personal Days by Ed Park

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Personal Days by Ed Park

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: An interesting look at office politics in the 21st century, this book has some realistic characters and mind-numbing scenarios of life in a nameless corporation, but lost my interest towards the end.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: May 2008
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
ISBN: 978-0224082419

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Right now I work for an organisation that everyone in the UK and many people beyond will have heard of. People who have never worked with me will still weigh in on what I do all day, whether it's necessary, whether it's a good use of tax payers' money. It's a subject everyone has an opinion on, and can therefore lead to some difficult as well as passionate dinner party conversations. Sometimes I wish I could work for an anonymous corporation that most people hadn't heard of and the ones that had had little knowledge of. Surely life would be easier in those sort of places? That's what I used to think, anyway, until now. Until I read this book.

Personal Days is set in an organisation that could not be more different to mine. Here, not only do the public not have a clue what it does, but half the staff don't either, and that's not boosting their morale in the slightest. By the end of the book you have little idea of who the narrator is, but while you might not know what they're there to achieve, you do get a good idea of what they do all day. For example, they sit around all day making up nicknames for people (Grime, Crease, HABAW, aka half-Asian British accent woman), redefining their environment (Siberia is on the 6th floor, Bad Starbucks is down the road while Good Starbucks is two blocks further on in the opposite direction) and obsessing over the fact that the last few people to have been let go all have names beginning with J. Coincidence? These are the sort of people who, when automatically asked Do you really want to quit? when closing down Windows give as much thought to that question as they do to when they're next going to take a Personal day. When they come across what they dub The Jilliad, a collection of inspirational quotations and thoughts collated by a recently departed colleague, they have the time to spend hours discussing out of themselves and their colleagues, who are the Berts and who are the Ernies. It's that sort of place. It's a Dilbert meets David Brent world full of wry humour and painstaking observations. Or at least it is to start with.

To complete the office feel, the book has chapters called things like Can't undo and Revert to saved. Each of the three segments takes on a different format – the first two like reports with different section headings and references that get progressively more convoluted (think II…, II(A)…, II(A)i…., II(A)ii(a)… and so on), the third as a rambling email. There are a lot of jargony terms and phrases that are now an intrinsic part of office life, but it's not until they are all pulled together, as in this book, that you get to see the overwhelming number that exist, and the worrying way that everyone reading the book will know what they mean because nowadays you just do know your cc'd from your PDF.

I thought the book started off really well but it drifted towards the end and lost my interest. Ironically, that was the part where a proper, maintained plot began to emerge. Before that it was some random mumblings and observations that I was really rather enjoying. If it had stayed with its original premise it could have worked, but it moved more into a paranoid tale of suspicion and mistrust that wasn't anywhere near as engaging or interesting as the original tongue in cheek, depressingly accurate portrayal of office life.

The writing is fun because it's different – it lacks any kind of emotion which makes even the serious parts seem quite funny, and before the proper plot kicked in I was galloping through the pages. It's worth a flick through, but if you get two thirds of the way through and want to give up, I wouldn't try to stop you because although you want it to, after that point it never really picks up again.

Thanks go to the publishers for supplying this book. For a helpful look at office life leaf through The Answers and if you read this book and get all motivated to become less of a Laars and more of a Sprout, you might need some advice from here.

Buy Personal Days by Ed Park at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Personal Days by Ed Park at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Personal Days by Ed Park at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Personal Days by Ed Park at Amazon.com.

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