Review: Diary of an Unsmug Married by Polly James

Title: Diary of an Unsmug Married

Author: Polly James

Published: Avon February 2014

Status: Read from February 11 to 12, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy LightBrigade}

My Thoughts:

Diary of an Unsmug Married is a funny and engaging contemporary story of marriage, midlife crisis and MP’s.

Contentment seems to be eluding Molly Bennett, wife, mother and Labor constituent caseworker, who has just celebrated a ‘significant’ birthday. Her husband is suddenly heading off on business trips to hotels he can’t remember the name of, her son is riding vacuum cleaners down the steepest hill in the city and she is being besieged by her dysfunctional family which includes her histrionic sister Dinah, her hypochondriac mother and her Thai bride seeking father.

Work offers no refuge, Molly is a senior caseworker for Labor politician Andrew Sinclair, MP (Member of Parliament) and spends much of her time, with assistance from co-worker Greg, tempering Andrew’s incompetence. Her other significant role is to handle the irate phone calls and death threats from his constituency, including the serial complainants, the irrational, the entitled, and the odd heartbreaking case of genuine need.

With wit and warmth Polly James invites us to laugh, celebrate and commiserate with her heroine as Molly faces midlife, a marriage crisis, and a workplace that regularly attracts the most dissatisfied members of society. I liked Molly a lot, she is someone I could share a glass of wine with, sympathising with her complaints about her marriage, her wayward teenagers, debating the wisdom of having an affair with a man she barely remembers snogging in fifth class, and laughing at her recitations of the more absurd incidences involving her job.

The MP office in which Molly works provides much hilarity in the novel, slightly diluted by the odd knife wielding madman. As the author once held a similar position to Molly, I hope that James has hugely exaggerated the barely restrained chaos, though I have a sneaking suspicion that it actually reflects the truth. The office is beleaguered by repeat characters such as Miss Chambers and Mr Beales, demanding the impossible. I love Molly and Greg’s tradition of ‘Writing Honest Letters’ (that never get sent) in response to petty and irrational complaints to cheer themselves up, but also their dedication to get those help that really need it.

Diary of an Unsmug Married is well written, the humour never feels forced, the dialogue is natural and the tone confident, impressive for a debut novel. However at nearly 500 pages I thought it was too long, with the pace stalling around the half way point and some scenes becoming repetitive, I could have skimmed through a good chunk of the middle without missing anything except a few laughs.

Nevertheless, I did find Diary of an Unsmug Married to be an entertaining read. It is funny, lively and bold, full of quirky characters and laugh out loud scenes. I’d particularly recommend this novel to women of *a certain age* (like me) who can relate to trying to keep it all together at a time when you are supposed to have it all.

Available to purchase from

HarperCollins UK I AmazonUK I AmazonUS I The BookDepository

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kathrynsinbox
    Feb 13, 2014 @ 19:58:50

    Haha, I think I like the sound of the “Writing Honest Letters” tradition as well. Sounds like a good read, though perhaps a little long.

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  2. Mystica
    Feb 14, 2014 @ 01:49:02

    Sounds good.

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  3. laurelrainsnow
    Feb 14, 2014 @ 02:21:25

    Love the sound of this one, and having worked in crazy places (not exactly like hers, but with chaos reigning), I could relate to much of this. I agree about the 500 pages…and having done the same thing in one of my own creations, I can understand how that happens.

    Thanks for sharing.

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