The Undomestic Goddess

The Undomestic Goddess

by Sophie Kinsella
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Overview

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

Workaholic attorney Samantha Sweeting has just done the unthinkable. She’s made a mistake so huge, it’ll wreck any chance of a partnership.

Going into utter meltdown, she walks out of her London office, gets on a train, and ends up in the middle of nowhere. Asking for directions at a big, beautiful house, she’s mistaken for an interviewee and finds herself being offered a job as housekeeper. Her employers have no idea they’ve hired a lawyer–and Samantha has no idea how to work the oven. She can’t sew on a button, bake a potato, or get the #@%# ironing board to open. How she takes a deep breath and begins to cope–and finds love–is a story as delicious as the bread she learns to bake.

But will her old life ever catch up with her? And if it does…will she want it back?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440242383
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/30/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Product dimensions: 4.17(w) x 6.88(h) x 1.17(d)

About the Author

Sophie Kinsella is the author of the bestselling Shopaholic series, as well as the novels Can You Keep A Secret?, The Undomestic Goddess, Remember Me?, Twenties Girl, I’ve Got Your Number, and Wedding Night. She lives in England.

Hometown:

London, England

Date of Birth:

December 12, 1969

Place of Birth:

London, England

Education:

B.A. in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, Oxford University, 1990; M.Mus., King's College, London, 1992

Read an Excerpt

Would you consider yourself stressed?
No. I'm not stressed.

I'm . . . busy. Plenty of people are busy. I have a high-powered job, my career is important to me, and I enjoy it.

OK. So sometimes I do feel a bit tense. But I'm a lawyer in the City, for God's sake. What do you expect?


My handwriting is pressing so hard into the page, I've torn the paper. Dammit. Never mind. Let's move on to the next question.

On average, how many hours do you spend in the office every day?

14
12
8


It depends.

Do you exercise regularly?

I regularly go swimming
I occasionally go swim


I am intending to begin a regular regime of swimming. When I have time. Work's been busy lately, it's a blip.

Do you drink 8 glasses of water a day?

Yes

Someti

No.

I put down my pen and clear my throat. Across the room, Maya looks up from where she's rearranging all her little pots of wax and nail varnish. Maya is my spa beauty therapist for the day and is in her forties, I'd say. Her long dark hair is in a plait with one white streak woven through it, and she has a tiny silver stud in her nose.

"Everything all right with the questionnaire?" she murmurs.

"I did mention that I'm in a bit of a hurry," I say politely. "Are all these questions absolutely necessary?"

"At the Green Tree Center we like to have as much information as possible to assess your beauty and health needs," she replies in soothing yet implacable tones.

I glance at my watch. Nine forty-five.

I don't have time for this. I really do not have the time. But it's my birthday treat and I promised my best friend, Freya.

To be more accurate, it's last year's birthday treat. Freya gave me the gift voucher for an "Ultimate De-stress Experience" just over a year ago. She's my oldest school friend and is always on at me for working too hard. In the card that came with the voucher she wrote Make Some Time For Yourself, Samantha!!!

Which I did fully intend to do. But we had the Zincon Petrochemical Group restructuring and the Zeus Minerals merger . . . and somehow a year went by without my finding a spare moment. I'm a lawyer with Carter Spink. I work in the corporate department on the finance side, and just at the moment, things are pretty hectic with some big deals on. It's a blip. It'll get better. I just have to get through the next couple of weeks.

Anyway, then Freya sent me this year's birthday card—and I suddenly realized the voucher was about to expire. So here I am, on my twenty-ninth birthday. Sitting on a couch in a white toweling robe and surreal paper knickers. With a half-day window. Max.

Do you smoke?

No.

Do you drink alcohol?

Yes. The odd glass of wine.

Do you eat regular home-cooked meals?

What does that have to do with anything? What makes "home-cooked" meals superior?

I eat a nutritious, varied diet, I write at last. Which is absolutely true.
Anyway, everyone knows the Chinese live longer than we do—so what could be more healthy than to eat their food? And pizza is Mediterranean. It's probably more healthy than a home-cooked meal.

Do you feel your life is balanced?

Yes.

N

Yes.

"I'm done," I announce, and hand the pages back to Maya, who starts reading through my answers. Her finger is traveling down the paper at a snail's pace. Like we've got all the time in the world.

Which she may well have. But I seriously have to be back in the office by one.

Maya looks up, a thoughtful expression on her face. "You're obviously quite a stressed-out woman."

What? Where does she get that from? I specifically put on the form, I am not stressed-out.

"No, I'm not." I hope Maya's taking in my relaxed, see-how-unstressed-I-am smile. She looks unconvinced.

"Your job is obviously very pressured."

"I thrive under pressure," I explain. Which is true. I've known that about myself ever since . . .

Well. Ever since my mother told me, when I was about eight. You thrive under pressure, Samantha. Our whole family thrives under pressure. It's like our family motto or something.

Apart from my brother Peter, of course. He had a nervous breakdown. But the rest of us.

I love my job. I love spotting the loophole in a contract. I love the thrill of negotiation, and arguing my case, and making the sharpest point in the room. I love the adrenaline rush of closing a deal.

I suppose just occasionally I do feel as though someone's piling heavy weights on me. Like big concrete blocks, one on top of the other, and I have to keep holding them up, no matter how exhausted I am . . .

But then everyone probably feels like that. It's normal.

"Your skin's very dehydrated." Maya is shaking her head. She runs an expert hand across my cheek and rests her fingers underneath my jaw, looking concerned. "Your heart rate's very high. That's not healthy. Are you feeling particularly tense?"

"Work's pretty busy at the moment." I shrug. "It's just a blip. I'm fine." Can we get on with it?

"Well." Maya gets up. She presses a button set in the wall and gentle pan-pipe music fills the air." All I can say is, you've come to the right place, Samantha. Our aim here is to destress, revitalize, and detoxify."

"Lovely," I say, only half listening. I've just remembered that I never got back to David Elldridge about the Ukrainian oil contract. I meant to call him yesterday. Shit.

"Our aim is to provide a haven of tranquility, away from all your day-to-day worries." Maya presses another button in the wall, and the light dims to a muted glow. "Before we start," she says softly, "do you have any questions?"

"Actually, I do." I lean forward.

"Good!" She beams. "Are you curious about today's treatments, or is it something more general?"

"Could I possibly send a quick e-mail?"

Maya's smile freezes on her face.

"Just quickly," I add. "It won't take two secs—"

"Samantha, Samantha . . ." Maya shakes her head. "You're here to relax. To take a moment for yourself. Not to send e-mails. E-mail's an obsession! An addiction! As evil as alcohol. Or caffeine."

For goodness sake, I'm not obsessed. I mean, that's ridiculous. I check my e-mails about once every . . . thirty seconds, maybe.

The thing is, a lot can change in thirty seconds.

"And besides, Samantha," Maya goes on. "Do you see a computer in this room?"

"No," I reply, obediently looking around the dim little room, at posters of yoga positions and a wind chime and a row of crystals arranged on the windowsill.

"This is why we ask that you leave all electronic equipment in the safe. No mobile phones are permitted. No little computers." Maya spreads her arms. "This is a retreat. An escape from the world."

"Right." I nod meekly.

Now is probably not the time to reveal that I have a BlackBerry hidden in my paper knickers.

"So, let's begin." Maya smiles. "Lie down, please, under a towel. And remove your watch."

"I need my watch!"

"Another addiction." She tsks reprovingly. "You don't need to know the time while you're here."

She turns away, and with reluctance I take off my watch. Then, a little awkwardly, I arrange myself on the massage table, trying to avoid squashing my precious BlackBerry.

I did see the rule about no electronic equipment. And I did surrender my Dictaphone. But three hours without a BlackBerry? I mean, what if something came up at the office? What if there was an emergency?

If they really wanted people to relax, they would let them keep their BlackBerrys and mobile phones, not confiscate them.

Anyway, she'll never see it under my towel.

"I'm going to begin with a relaxing foot rub," says Maya, and I feel her smoothing some kind of lotion over my feet.

"Try to clear your mind."

I stare dutifully up at the ceiling. Clear mind. My mind is as clear as a transparent . . . glass . . .

What am I going to do about Elldridge? He'll be waiting for a response. What if he tells the other partners I was lax? What if it affects my chances of partnership?

I feel a clench of alarm. Now is not the time to leave anything to chance.

"Try to let go of all your thoughts. . . ."Maya is chanting. "Feel the release of tension. . . ."

Maybe I could send him a very quick e-mail.

Surreptitiously I reach down and feel the hard corner of my BlackBerry. Gradually I inch it out of my paper knickers. Maya is still massaging my feet, totally oblivious.

"Your body is growing heavy . . . your mind should be emptying . . ."

I edge the BlackBerry up onto my chest until I can just see the screen underneath the towel. Thank goodness this room is so dim. Trying to keep my movements to a minimum, I furtively start typing an e-mail with one hand.

"Relaax . . ." Maya is saying in soothing tones. "Imagine you're walking along a beach . . ."

"Uh-huh . . ." I murmur.

David, I'm typing. Re ZFN Oil contract. I read through amendments. Feel our response should be

"What are you doing?" says Maya, suddenly alert.

"Nothing!" I say, hastily shoving the BlackBerry back under the towel. "Just . . . er . . . relaxing."

Maya comes round the couch and looks at the bump in the towel where I'm clutching the BlackBerry.

"Are you hiding something?" she says in disbelief.

"No!"

From under the towel the BlackBerry emits a little bleep.

Damn.

"I think that was a car," I say, trying to sound casual. "Outside in the street."

Maya's eyes narrow.

"Samantha," she says ominously. "Do you have a piece of electronic equipment under there?"

I have the feeling that if I don't confess she'll rip my towel off anyway.

"I was just sending an e-mail," I say at last, and sheepishly produce the BlackBerry.

"You workaholics!" She grabs it out of my hand in exasperation. "E-mails can wait. It can all wait. You just don't know how to relax!"

"I'm not a workaholic!" I retort indignantly. "I'm a lawyer! It's different!"

"You're in denial." She shakes her head.

"I'm not! Look, we've got some big deals on at the firm. I can't just switch off ! Especially not right now. I'm . . . well, I'm up for partnership at the moment." As I say the words aloud I feel the familiar stabbing of nerves. Partner of one of the biggest law firms in the country. The only thing I've ever wanted, ever.

"I'm up for partnership," I repeat, more calmly. "They make the decision tomorrow. If it happens, I'll be the youngest partner in the history of the firm. Do you know how big a deal that is? Do you have any idea—"

"Anyone can take a couple of hours out," interrupts Maya. She puts her hands on my shoulders. "Samantha, you're incredibly nervy. Your shoulders are rigid, your heart's racing . . . it seems to me you're right on the edge."

"I'm fine."

"You're a bundle of jitters!"

"I'm not!"

"You have to decide to slow down, Samantha." She looks at me earnestly. "Only you can decide to change your life. Are you going to do that?"

"Er . . . well . . ."

I stop with a squeak of surprise, as from inside my paper knickers there comes a judder.

My mobile phone. I shoved it in there along with the BlackBerry and turned it onto VIBRATE so it wouldn't make a noise.

"What's that?" Maya is gaping at my twitching towel.

"What on earth is that . . . quivering?"

I can't admit it's a phone. Not after the BlackBerry.

"Erm. . ." I clear my throat. "It's my special . . . er . . . love toy."

"Your what?" Maya looks taken aback.

The phone judders inside my pants again. I have to answer. It might be the office.

"Um. . . you know, I'm reaching a bit of an intimate moment right now." I give Maya a significant look. "Maybe you could . . . uh . . . leave the room?"

Suspicion snaps into Maya's eyes.

"Wait a moment!" She peers again. "Is that a phone under there? You smuggled in a mobile phone as well?"

Oh, God. She looks furious.

"Look," I say, trying to sound apologetic. "I know you've got your rules and everything, which I do respect, but the thing is, I need my mobile." I reach under the towel for the phone.

"Leave it!" Maya's cry takes me by surprise. "Samantha," she says, making an obvious effort to keep calm. "If you've listened to a single word I've said . . . you'll switch the phone off right now."

The phone vibrates again in my hand. I look at the caller ID and feel a twist in my stomach. "It's the office."

"They can leave a message. They can wait."

"But—"

"This is your own time." She leans forward and clasps my hands earnestly. "Your own time."

She really doesn't get it, does she? I almost want to laugh.

"I'm an associate at Carter Spink," I explain. "I don't have my own time." I flip the phone open and an angry male voice bites down the line.

"Samantha, where the hell are you?"

It's Ketterman. The head of our corporate department. He's in his late forties and his first name is John, but no one ever calls him anything except Ketterman. He has black hair and steel glasses and gray gimlet eyes, and when I first arrived at Carter Spink I actually used to have nightmares about him.

"The Fallons deal is back on. Get back here now. Meeting at ten-thirty."

Back on?

"I'll be there as soon as I can." I snap the phone shut and look ruefully at Maya. "Sorry."

I'm not addicted to my watch.

But obviously I rely on it. You would too, if your time was measured in six-minute segments. For every six minutes of my working life, I'm supposed to bill a client. It all goes on a computerized time sheet, in itemized chunks.

11:00-11:06 drafted contract for Project A
11:06-11:12 amended documentation for Client B
11:12-11:18 consulted on point for Agreement C

When I first started at Carter Spink it freaked me out slightly, the idea that I had to write down what I was working on, every minute of the day. I used to think: What if I do nothing for six minutes? What am I supposed to write down then?

11:00-11:06 stared aimlessly out of window
11:06-11:12 daydreamed about bumping into George Clooney in street
11:12-11:18 attempted to touch nose with tongue

But if you're a lawyer at Carter Spink, you don't sit around. Not when every six minutes of your time is worth money. If I let six minutes of time tick away, I've lost the firm £50. Twelve minutes, £100. Eighteen minutes, £150. And the truth is, you get used to measuring your life in little chunks. And you get used to working. All the time.

Reading Group Guide

Author of the bestselling Shopaholic novels Sophie Kinsella has delighted readers around the globe with her all-too-human characters caught in an array of zany dilemmas. In that spirit, The Undomestic Goddess tells the fast-paced, riotously funny tale of a high-powered corporate lawyer who trades legal torts for fresh-baked tortes in the riskiest career move of her life.

Samantha Sweeting has always been a workaholic; she can’t even enjoy a massage unless her BlackBerry is within reach. Following in her mother’s footsteps, she has risen to the top of London’s legal circles by devoting every ounce of her energy to a prestigious law firm. But just as she discovers she’s been made a partner, she also discovers that she has seemingly made a mistake so huge, it will ruin her career, and cost the firm millions. Going into utter meltdown, she boards a train bound for anywhere. Dazed and ashamed, she finds herself on the streets of a charming country town and stops to ask for help at a big, beautiful house. In a brilliant comedy of errors, she’s mistaken for a job applicant and is soon offered employment as a housekeeper. Samantha accepts the job–even though she barely knows how to boil water. She doesn’t know how to run a vacuum cleaner, sew on a button, turn on an oven, or poach an egg. How long will she be able to fool her new bosses? That depends on whether a handsome gardener named Nathaniel is willing to keep her secret. A refreshing novel about finding a life to love, and finding a loved one to share it with, The Undomestic Goddess is boiling over with delights.

The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Sophie Kinsella’s The Undomestic Goddess. We hope they will enrich your experience of this witty and endearing novel.

1. How would you have responded to the questions that introduce Chapter One? Have you ever been accused of being addicted to stress? What's the difference between having a busy life and being a workaholic?

2. How did the office politics at Carter Spink compare to your experience in the world of work? Who is the Ketterman in your life, dropping huge, last-minute projects on your desk?

3. What accounts for the different lives led by Samantha and her childhood friend, Freya? What fun and essential roles does Freya play in Samantha's life?

4. Before Samantha leaves London, what are her highest expectations regarding love? Was there anything appealing about six-minute sex with Jacob? What stokes her attraction to Guy?

5. Samantha wistfully adores "The Waltons." Why is her family so different from the one depicted in that show? What does the ideal family look like in the twenty-first century?

6. Discuss the debate between Samantha and Mrs. Farley at the end of Chapter Three. Is sewing on a button a valuable skill, or at least as valuable as Mrs. Farley says it is? What are the most valuable skills for women to master?

7. Samantha describes the disorder of her desk–and her life–that made her vulnerable to the alleged registration mistake. What did her clutter indicate about her state of mind at that time?

8. With her uncanny knack for numbers and her fiercely competitive streak, Samantha was a natural for corporate law. Was she also a natural domestic goddess, even though the basic instruction had been withheld from her as she grew up? Does Melissa have what it takes to succeed in law?

9. What do Nathaniel's and Samantha's histories have in common? What makes them an unlikely couple, yet a perfect couple? How do they gradually learn to trust each other?

10. Are Trish and Eddie good bosses? Would you want to work for them?

11. At times, Samantha suffers from a sort of withdrawal after leaving Carter Spink. What is the equivalent of Carter Spink in your life–the community or organization without which you would feel empty? Have you ever had to face the prospect of losing that connection? What alternative plan would you come up with, as Samantha stumbled into the Geiger plan?

12. Chapter Sixteen describes the experience of Iris's kitchen and Samantha's awakening to simple, natural miracles such as rising bread. What healing perspective does Iris impart to Samantha?

13. Much to her horror, Samantha is hounded by the media for sound bites and pursued by advertisers to become an icon for products. Do the headlines in Chapter Twenty-four raise any real-life issues? Do women and men face identical challenges in the modern corporate world?

14. Which of the novel's scenes kept you on the edge of your seat the longest? Could you have maintained a false identity for as long as Samantha did? Would you have gone back to work for Carter Spink?

15. What do you predict for Samantha and Nathaniel's future?

Introduction

Author of the bestselling Shopaholic novels Sophie Kinsella has delighted readers around the globe with her all-too-human characters caught in an array of zany dilemmas. In that spirit, The Undomestic Goddess tells the fast-paced, riotously funny tale of a high-powered corporate lawyer who trades legal torts for fresh-baked tortes in the riskiest career move of her life.

Samantha Sweeting has always been a workaholic; she can’t even enjoy a massage unless her BlackBerry is within reach. Following in her mother’s footsteps, she has risen to the top of London’s legal circles by devoting every ounce of her energy to a prestigious law firm. But just as she discovers she’s been made a partner, she also discovers that she has seemingly made a mistake so huge, it will ruin her career, and cost the firm millions. Going into utter meltdown, she boards a train bound for anywhere. Dazed and ashamed, she finds herself on the streets of a charming country town and stops to ask for help at a big, beautiful house. In a brilliant comedy of errors, she’s mistaken for a job applicant and is soon offered employment as a housekeeper. Samantha accepts the job–even though she barely knows how to boil water. She doesn’t know how to run a vacuum cleaner, sew on a button, turn on an oven, or poach an egg. How long will she be able to fool her new bosses? That depends on whether a handsome gardener named Nathaniel is willing to keep her secret. A refreshing novel about finding a life to love, and finding a loved one to share it with, The Undomestic Goddess is boiling over with delights.

The questions, discussion topics, and authorbiography that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Sophie Kinsella’s The Undomestic Goddess. We hope they will enrich your experience of this witty and endearing novel.

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The Undomestic Goddess 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 608 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the Shopaholic Series, but this is to date my favorite of Sophie Kinsella's novels. I don't know how many times I laughed out loud while reading this one. The loony couple that Samantha ends up being employed by are a riot. And I loved the chemistry that she created between Samantha and Nathaniel. What a great story. Got it last year for Christmas and have read it twice.
ArwenMS More than 1 year ago
I always try to find a book to get my mind off of things. This book accomplished that. It was really funny and had believable characters and a fast read.I read the book in two days. I LOVE Sophie Kinsella books because they will put a smile on your face with hilarious characters and funny situations. I recommend this book to anyone and especially those workaholics.
LC112648LC More than 1 year ago
As usual - another great and funny read! Sophie really has the knack of being down to earth and making you really like her characters. I always look forward to anything written by her - and this book was no exception! For a fun, light and funny (making you laugh out loud) book - this is it! Enjoy!!!!!
Pistachio77 More than 1 year ago
Cute, fun, sassy and a pleasant book to read. Once again, Kinsella has done it by producing a well-written book to satisfy one's literary senses. You wanted to keep turning the pages to find out what would happen next yet slow down in realizing the fun would come to a close at the turn of the last page.
thecollector0 More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I have read. a must read if you like to laugh.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
really great book to read. one of the best buy sophia kinsella. i have to say i hope she writes another one with samantha sweeting about her life, like she did with confessions of a shopaholic. this book is funny and entertaining and a good love story. i really hope she writes another. loved the characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fun and entertaining
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read this book! You'll love it!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. The best I've read in a long time and the first by this author. Will definitely buy more from this author!
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loved it. love all the sophie kinsella books. i wish that she would publish more of them because they are easy reads that leave me laughing and wanting more!
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Not as good as some of her others as far as hilarity goes but still, there was some funny parts and kept you on your toes towards the end. Although predictable, exactly what I needed between all the paranormal I've been reading. The end was a little flat. I mean the very end
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Great story with lots of character, humor and the neverending cycle of housework. LOL!
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