Sarah Long The Next Best Thing

ISBN 13: 9780099457749

The Next Best Thing

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9780099457749: The Next Best Thing

The irresistible new novel from the author of And What Do You Do?

At thirty-five, Jane, a freelance translator, realizes something rather disturbing. She thought she had her life perfectly balanced: working from home allows her to be financially independent, spend time with her daughter, and escape office politics. But somehow, instead of combining a glamorous career with parenting, she’s combining falling asleep over her laptop with putting in another load of washing.

For Jane’s partner, Will, a travel writer, things are working out just right. The fact that Jane takes care of the housework while bringing in an income means he can indulge his politically correct objections to employing a cleaner. And, converting the best part of their house into a “galleria” for himself, his books and his all-important thoughts, suits him down to the ground.

Then there’s Lydia, editor of London’s glossiest magazine. She knows exactly what she wants from life: a glittering career, a husband with a large income and a stately home. Her fiancé, The Banker, has a lucrative job and a whole page to himself in Burke’s Landed Gentry... but it’s just possible that he wants more out of life than that. So when he and Jane meet, all four of them are in for a bit of a shock.
From the Hardcover edition.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Sarah Long worked for several years in publishing before giving it all up to move to Paris with her husband and three children. Following several years of the Parisian experience, they now live back in London.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

ONE

‘Next Wednesday? I thought I had two more weeks!’ Jane tried to keep the note of panic out of her voice. If she couldn’t cope, they’d find someone who could. Freelance translators were two-a-penny, she couldn’t afford to be difficult.

‘Well yes,’ she said, ‘that should be OK, I’ll just have to up the pace, that’s all. Without compromising the quality, of course.’ She laughed reassuringly. ‘Nothing like a bit of adrenaline to kick the machine into action. Thanks Gus, I’ll be in touch next week. Yup, you too, bye.’

Jane slumped back behind the kitchen table. It was a good thing Gus couldn’t see her, still in her pyjamas, surrounded by last night’s unwashed dishes. It wasn’t exactly professional. The domestic squalor would have to wait, she thought, pushing aside a pile of papers to unearth her laptop. She was getting good money for this job, and no-one was going to pay her for cleaning the house.

She switched on the computer and listened to the opening chords of Windows ringing nobly round her kitchen-cum-office. Over to you, it said, now is the time to launch into your flawless translation of Bridges of France. It had seemed such a good idea at the time, working from home. It meant she could fit it round the rest of her life, leaving time for her daughter and her partner. Juggling on her own terms in a heroic bid to have it all, the way women were supposed to these days.

If she was going to meet this new deadline, she’d need to get at least three chapters done before she went to meet Liberty from school. She took a bite of her toast and watched the crumbs fall into the gaps between the letters on the keyboard. Disgusting really. There must be all kinds of detritus lurking down there, it could muck up the whole system. She picked up the laptop, turned it upside down and shook it gently. Bits of food and hair and dust showered onto the table. Even a couple of nail clippings – how vile. She brushed them onto the floor, then dabbed a tissue to her mouth and set about polishing the keys. You couldn’t be expected to work when your fingers stuck to the plastic piano, made glutinous by a child’s sticky hands.

She threw the tissue in the bin and ran her fingers over the smooth surface of the clean keyboard. That was better; she was now equipped for a full day’s work. She pushed her hair back from her face and fastened it with a comb belonging to her daughter that had been discarded beside a plate of congealing gravy. It was no good, she’d have to load the dishwasher. Even for someone with her own low hygiene standards, there were limits. She didn’t want social services coming round and seizing her daughter.

She swiftly loaded the plates and wiped down the table. It would be nice to have a cleaner, but Will thought domestic staff smacked of bourgeois exploitation, and it was cheaper for her to do it herself.

Now, where was she . . . the Pont d’Avignon, rich source of a myriad of treasured folkloric history, not least the celebrated song beloved of generations of children . . . Too folksy. She mustn’t slip into whimsy just because Gus had cruelly brought forward her deadline. Start again. The Pont d’Avignon, source of many legends as old as the noble stones themselves, and familiar to every French schoolchild. Better. She typed on, silently, swiftly, and was soon nearing the end of the chapter, which she would celebrate by taking a swift bath and getting dressed. It was one thing to do the morning school-run in your pyjamas, safely hidden in the car, but you couldn’t stand outside the gates of Leinster Prep at four o’clock dressed like a tramp.

With just two pages to go, Jane became aware of an unpleasant sensation in her feet. She was wearing a pair of Will’s old socks – he found slippers depressing – and when she looked down she saw that, for some reason, they were now sodden through. Not only that, the entire floor was covered with water. The dishwasher, of course. Not again: fourteen years old, what could you expect? Will had retrieved it as part of his spoils from the divorce, determined to take advantage of its extended guarantee. It always broke down when he was safely out of the way.

She paddled her way across the kitchen, soaking her knees as she bent down and reached under the sink in a well-practised routine to turn off the water supply. Once again she’d have to call the engineer and face his incredulity as he patched it up. You should get a new one, love, he’d say, and she’d agree, only Will wouldn’t hear of it.

Cursing, she pulled out the mop and bucket and started slopping around. It wouldn’t be like this if she worked in an office. The whole house could burn down for all she’d know about it, whereas being at home meant she was always on hand to take care of domestic crises.

The phone rang again. If that’s someone trying to sell me car insurance, Jane told herself, they are in for a bumpy ride.

‘Hallo, you sexy beast.’ It was Will calling from work. He’d already written his column and was sitting feet up on his desk, swigging from an Evian bottle.

‘Will, great timing,’ said Jane. ‘Your nasty old dishwasher has just blown up again. It’s got to go, otherwise I will.’

‘That’s a very Wildean threat,’ he said. ‘Just ring Zanussi, it’s under guarantee.’

‘I’m always ringing Zanussi, they hate me.’

‘Don’t dramatise, darling, it’s only an appliance.’

‘An appliance that’s begging to be put out of its misery.’

‘You know our views on needless waste,’ he said, crumpling the plastic bottle with one hand and chucking it across the room towards the bin. ‘Landfill sites are clogged up with perfectly serviceable white goods, we don’t want to make any further contribution to the death of the planet.’

‘Sod the planet, I’ve got work to do. Gus has brought forward my deadline and the kitchen’s flooded.’

Will observed a brief silence.

‘On a brighter note,’ he went on, ‘I’ve invited Chas over tonight. I thought you might like to do your mushroom risotto. You could stop off at Fresh and Wild on your way to school.’

‘Or you could stop off on your way home.’

‘I’d love to,’ he said regretfully, as if nothing would have given him more pleasure, ‘only they’ll be closed by then. We’re not all part-timers.’

‘Part-time cleaner, chief cook and bottle-washer.’

‘And talented translator. You are an extraordinary woman, I realise that.’

She softened at the flattery. ‘All right then. What time will you be here?’

‘Dinner time. Have you got proper stock? You can’t make risotto without it.’

‘In the freezer.’

‘Good girl. Love you.’

‘Mmm.’

He was right, she thought as she put the phone down. It was only an appliance, there was no point getting hysterical about it. Will was good at putting things in perspective, he never lost his cool and often made her feel like a petulant child. Though, in truth, it was easy to be cool when you weren’t the one who had to deal with things.

She threw some towels down on the floor and shuffled them round with her feet to dry it, then sat down at her computer. She’d call Zanussi later, better not to interrupt her concentration. So Chas was coming to dinner. Chas was Will’s agent, and therefore worth courting. He also liked his food, and was always complimentary about Jane’s cooking. She’d need to get in some more parmesan, too, for tonight. Will would be pleased with her for making the effort, and she did like it when he was pleased with her.

Sighing, she forced her mind back from the evening ahead and concentrated on her work. Double speed now, no time to waste. The phone rang again. Damn, she’d forgotten to plug in the answer phone. Maybe she should just let it ring? But what if it was Liberty’s school to say she’d had an accident?

‘Hallo darling.’

Lydia. Her old friend. Or to be more accurate, the daughter of her mother’s friend.

‘Lydia! What a surprise!’

Which it was, in one way, since Jane had no idea why Lydia still bothered to keep in touch with her. On the other hand, Lydia called her so often at this time in the morning that it was hardly surprising at all. They had been at school together, then on to Oxford, followed by parallel lowly jobs that involved a lot of photocopying. But whereas Lydia’s career had gathered momentum and was steaming along a high-speed track, Jane’s had ended up shunted into a cul-de-sac right here in her kitchen.

‘How are things, Jane?’ asked Lydia. ‘What have you been up to?’

‘Coping with an enormous flood. The dishwasher broke, my deadline’s been cut short and Will’s just rung to say he’s invited his agent to dinner . . .’

But Lydia wasn’t listening. It was always like this, she popped the question, ignored the answer, then roared in with a full account of her own glamorous life. ‘God, I can’t tell you how busy I’ve been, it’s been wall-to-wall hectic here.’

So if she was that busy, thought Jane, why waste time – especially my time – making unnecessary phone calls?

‘Really?’

‘Yes, really. I had to go down to Highgrove last weekend, we’re doing a thing on Charles’s organic stuff. He’s fantastic, by the way, couldn’t have been more welcoming.’<...

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Sarah Long
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Book Description Cornerstone, United Kingdom, 2006. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. At thirty-five, Jane realises something rather disturbing. She thought she had her life perfectly balanced: working from home as a freelance translator allows her to keep her financial independence, spend time with her daughter and escape office politics. But somehow, instead of combining a rewarding career with a satisfying mother-daughter relationship, she s become an all-purpose dogsbody, rushing from crisis to crisis and combining missing deadlines with repairing the dishwasher. Rupert is also leading the life he planned: a job in the city, glamorous girlfriend, plenty of money. But he s beginning to have doubts about the dull-but-sensible route he s chosen - and to realise it s just possible he wants more out of life. So, when he and Jane meet, each escaping their day-to-day life with a stolen afternoon in the peace of the cinema, they both start to wonder whether it s really enough to settle for the next best thing. Bookseller Inventory # AB99780099457749

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Book Description Cornerstone, United Kingdom, 2006. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. At thirty-five, Jane realises something rather disturbing. She thought she had her life perfectly balanced: working from home as a freelance translator allows her to keep her financial independence, spend time with her daughter and escape office politics. But somehow, instead of combining a rewarding career with a satisfying mother-daughter relationship, she s become an all-purpose dogsbody, rushing from crisis to crisis and combining missing deadlines with repairing the dishwasher. Rupert is also leading the life he planned: a job in the city, glamorous girlfriend, plenty of money. But he s beginning to have doubts about the dull-but-sensible route he s chosen - and to realise it s just possible he wants more out of life. So, when he and Jane meet, each escaping their day-to-day life with a stolen afternoon in the peace of the cinema, they both start to wonder whether it s really enough to settle for the next best thing. Bookseller Inventory # AB99780099457749

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Book Description Arrow. Book Condition: New. 2006. Paperback. At thirty-five, Jane realises something rather disturbing. She thought she had her life balanced: working from home allows her to spend time with her daughter. But, she's become a dogsbody. Rupert is also leading the life he planned. So, when he and Jane meet, they start to wonder whether it's really enough to settle for the next best thing. Num Pages: 384 pages. BIC Classification: FA. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 197 x 130 x 23. Weight in Grams: 258. . . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Bookseller Inventory # V9780099457749

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Book Description Arrow, 2006. Book Condition: New. 2006. Paperback. At thirty-five, Jane realises something rather disturbing. She thought she had her life balanced: working from home allows her to spend time with her daughter. But, she's become a dogsbody. Rupert is also leading the life he planned. So, when he and Jane meet, they start to wonder whether it's really enough to settle for the next best thing. Num Pages: 384 pages. BIC Classification: FA. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 197 x 130 x 23. Weight in Grams: 258. . . . . . . Bookseller Inventory # V9780099457749

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Book Description Cornerstone. Paperback. Book Condition: new. BRAND NEW, The Next Best Thing, Sarah Long, At thirty-five, Jane realises something rather disturbing. She thought she had her life perfectly balanced: working from home as a freelance translator allows her to keep her financial independence, spend time with her daughter and escape office politics. But somehow, instead of combining a rewarding career with a satisfying mother-daughter relationship, she's become an all-purpose dogsbody, rushing from crisis to crisis and combining missing deadlines with repairing the dishwasher. Rupert is also leading the life he planned: a job in the city, glamorous girlfriend, plenty of money. But he's beginning to have doubts about the dull-but-sensible route he's chosen - and to realise it's just possible he wants more out of life. So, when he and Jane meet, each escaping their day-to-day life with a stolen afternoon in the peace of the cinema, they both start to wonder whether it's really enough to settle for the next best thing. Bookseller Inventory # B9780099457749

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