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Getting a Life

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  262 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
Hilarious, dark, and thoroughly entertaining, Getting a Life proves Helen Simpson to be one of the finest observers of women on the edge. Set in and around contemporary London, these nine stories explore both the blisses and irritations of domestic life.
An ambitious teenager vows never to settle for any of the adult lives she sees around her. Two old friends get tipsy at
Paperback, 208 pages
Published June 11th 2002 by Vintage (first published October 5th 2000)
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Jan 17, 2010 Cynthia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: young mothers
This is probably the best set of short stories I've read on mothering and its inherent frustrations. The language is sparkly and a total blast to read.

(From "Lentils and Lilies," page 4)"Above her the cherry trees were fleecy and packed with a foam of white petals. Light warm rays of the sun reached her upturned face like kisses, refracted as a fizzy dazzle through the fringing of her eyelashes. She turned to the garden beside her and stared straight into a magnolia tree, the skin of its flowers
Claire Fuller
Dorrie, Dorrie, Dorrie - oh how I empathise with this character. She appears in two stories in this short collection of nine, and if she had been in every one, I would would have given the book five stars. These two stories about her struggles with three young children were so wonderfully written, so true, so heartfelt, the first one made me cry, and then made me text my twenty-year-old son to tell him I loved him. Some of the other stories are great too, some, such as the first, Lentils and Lil ...more
Jan 26, 2016 Netta rated it it was amazing
אחד הספרים המדכאים, הפוצעים והמטלטלים ביותר שקראתי. קצר ואכזרי. נועץ סכין בלב ומסובב אותה כמה פעמים. הלן סימפסון כותבת על אימהות, על אובדן החיים בעקבות הולדת הילדים, על דעיכת הנפש, הזוגיות, הקריירה, על המוות השקט הרובץ בכל בית בפרברים. נכון, לא כל אמא נראית, מתנהגת ומרגישה כך, באימהות יש המון אושר וסיפוק, והזוגיות לאו דווקא מתפגרת כשמגיעים הילדים, אבל איכשהוא נראה שכל אמא תמצא בספר הזה משהו מעצמה, באחת מדמויות הנשים הכל כך ראויות להזדהות, הערצה וחמלה שסימפסון מציירת כאן בכישרון.
אהבתי את הספר וש
Mar 04, 2016 Katherine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have been boring anyone who will listen with quotes from this book all week. Some very lucky people have even had a photocopy of the odd story thrust upon them with fierce instructions to read immediately. Others are going to find it turning up as a birthday present, house warming present, thanks-for-having-me-for-coffee present or any other lame excuse I can think of to spread the joy of this excellent collection of short stories!

This set of tales focusing on mums in various different scenari
Steven Smith
Feb 16, 2016 Steven Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
I usually find it hard to have a 5 star reading experience with short stories - not enough time to get to know characters or to get invested in lives etc. There were enough things that were just right about this for me though. Firstly was the amazing writing - the prose just melted in the mouth; was lively, captivating and thrilling. Secondly, the content. I have read this collection before about 10 years ago but found this re-read a much greater experience, no doubt due to having had babies and ...more
Jun 20, 2009 David rated it really liked it
The first few and last couple of stories were the strongest in this collection, I thought. Those were the ones that showed off her greatest strength: very wittily and powerfully capturing the frustrations/worries/fatigue of raising kids--women practically drowning in the struggle of it, aware of losing themselves in it. Sounds grimmer that it reads, but when it comes down to it, it IS grim...
Mar 12, 2014 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this book. It definitely made me not want to have kids (particularly the title story and the last piece, which both follow the same haggard family). Simpson's writing is sharp, funny and a pleasure to read. There are some sentences and phrases littered here and there that are real gems. I'm never going to forget "passionless cappuchinos," for example. My favorite stories in this were "Wurstigkeit," about two corporate women going shopping at a high-scale flea market (I really like ...more
Here is upper-middle-class London and the people who populate it. The women in these stories struggle with decisions in marriage, parenting, and life. Sometimes I felt that enough was enough, but then a story would pop up which put me back on the reading path.

That story was Wurstigkeit. This translates somewhat to English as a couldn't-care-less attitude. What the story really focuses on is shopping or the 'sausageness' of shopping. As the stories in this book weave their way around the loss of
Oct 17, 2015 Gretel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Short stories with the theme of motherhood vs career. Reading these stories is like overhearing interesting conversations. Very realistic dialogue, but Simpson's description doesn't always sound right. Millennium Blues made me feel very nostalgic, Lentils and Lilies I found particularly amusing and Cafe Society really made me feel empathy for the worn out mothers. I wasn't too keen on Opera or Cheers and found Burns and the Bankers to be just a tad too long. I also feel as if Simpson could've go ...more
Dec 18, 2013 Kristine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hard to understand why this book hasn't been rated or reviewed yet; it came out in 2002, was reviewed in the NYTRB and is fantastic. It is a beautiful collection of stories around themes of motherhood. In places LOL funny, one of them I laughed so hard on a plane I thought the flight attendant would radio for help. Many other places wrenching and bleak; husbands/fathers come off uniformly badly, and the children are all equal parts bratty and irresistible. I caught whiffs of life when mine were ...more
Jan 02, 2014 Lisa rated it it was ok
I enjoyed the first couple of stories, but I struggled to get through the full collection. I didn't see these stories as sarcastic at all as other readers mentioned, and I had a hard time getting through the descriptions that went on for pages (it seemed) about kids yelling, crawling, not listening, etc. and mom just being dragged under it all. I stopped reading it and I really hate doing that but I just couldn't finish. I'll be donating this to the library.
Apr 17, 2009 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
great stories - Helen Simpson is a bit of a find. Her observations on motherhood, and the plight of very high stress/high income family life is (I should imagine) spot on. But everyday family life is there as well - oh how I recognised her descriptions of the sensation of being torn into fragments by the competing demands of work, babies and husband. My children and husband used to pull at my arms jerking me in opposite directions, shouting "She's mine, she's mine" - I was never very amused, but ...more
Jan 06, 2013 Unwisely rated it it was ok
Shelves: wtf, 2012
I got snowed in while trying to get home over the holidays. I ended up calling a friend I've known for a number of years, who handed me a stack of books to read. He said this one was hilarious. I....don't know what he was talking about.

I thought this was about how depressing it is to be a 30-something female with children. I read it, because I didn't have a lot of options and I was trying really hard to give it a chance, but I finished it and, yep, it was not for me.

May 20, 2009 Carmen rated it it was ok
I picked this up on a recommendation but I could only get through a few stories. The tales of modern family and motherhood are supposed to be in a sarcastic, black humor vein, but they just struck me as cold and obnoxious. I guess it's supposed to be feminist or something but it's just dour. Reminded me of Mary Gaitskill, with less sharpness or skill.
Apr 15, 2010 Peg rated it liked it
A pretty grumpy view of motherhood/adulthood. Lots of selfish, boring husbands who drink too much. She writes well and because the characters reappear in various stories, you get drawn in. Supposed to be "sparingly tragic and unsparingly funny" but forget the funny, and tragic is too overblown for most of the women.
Suncan Stone
Unfortunately the lack in imagination is not overcome by her writing style. I suppose the title is appropriate for this collection of short stories though, for they are all about a modern hard working mother with a rather non-empathic husband... so I suppose the title leads to a divorce :)
Dec 30, 2009 Catherine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookcrossing
I was actually rather disappointed in this. They were more vignettes than stories - mostly working (or wishing they were working) mums reflecting on their lives as they went through an event or a day. I found myself craving incident. Glad I read it nonethelss.
If you are a woman and want to be turned off from having kids then read this short story collection. All of the stories have a common theme running through them of women losing their personal identity after getting married and having kids.
May 29, 2007 Maile rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: short story lovers
Shelves: short-stories

remarkable collection of intertwined short stories that explore the lives of londoner women who've made different choices about marriage & raising children. a lot of beautiful language and insights.
Re-read this recently (April 2011) and was surprised at the change in times a decade makes -- it is a very, very "millennial" collection. Ms. Simpson's voice was as amazing as ever.
Mar 23, 2012 Hillery rated it really liked it
Funny, satiric set of stories about modern women in London who are slightly on the edge....due to work, family, etc. Great dialogue and a nice black comedy vibe going on.
Aug 25, 2012 Tansy rated it it was amazing
Very funny, some terrific turns of phrase. British women struggling with motherhood and work and work dinners with long-winded Burns toadies.
Ayelet Waldman
The stories were amazing but, oh my God, were they bleak. Mothers on the edge of despair. We've all been there, in some fashion or another.
Jul 23, 2007 Tryna rated it did not like it
I had this on my to read list forever, and was very disappointed. It was more making fun of the things I love. Not my kind of thing.
May 10, 2013 Sherri rated it liked it
I really enjoyed the first couple of stories, but I got bored after that and struggled to get through the full collection.
Martha Johnson
Mar 06, 2013 Martha Johnson rated it liked it
I couldn't get grounded in this. I don't know if it was the short stories or my impatience. We weren't well paired.
Incredibyly well written, insightful stories... but so depressing I gave up before reading the last two stories.
May 20, 2007 G rated it liked it
Shelves: not-my-thing
A bit too dull, and I cared for none of the characters, but Simpson does have a grasp of her stories to an extent.
Jan 17, 2010 Olivia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very engaging set of short stories - easy to read but thought-provoking nonetheless. Perfect bedtime reading.
Ramazah Razvi
Good..Bit boring kinda...Bt read it somehow .. Good message..U surely need to get a life..Right!
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Helen Simpson is an English novelist and short story writer. She was born in 1959 in Bristol, in the West of England, and went to a girls' school. She worked at Vogue for five years before her success in writing short stories meant she could afford to leave and concentrate full-time on her writing. Her first collection, Four Bare Legs in a Bed and Other Stories, won the Sunday Times Young Writer o ...more
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