The Temp, by Serena Mackesy
"Sometimes I feel like I've disappeared altogether…"
Temping means: invisibility, boredom, poverty. It's a life of trailing from office to office where everyone assumes you're thick and the person you're replacing has carried out small acts of sabotage to ensure that their opinion stays that way. It's being called "Um" to your face and "The Temp" to your back, it's never knowing where the sandwich shop is. It's watching people glaze with boredom at parties, praying that the weekly cheque won't be late, laughing in the face of pension funds.
Temping's a dog's life: everyone knows that. Then again, it's anonymity, and anonymity is power. It's the freedom to observe without being observed, to slip from place to place without anyone knowing more about you, to know that, once you've left a group of people, you've also left their memories. And if you've got revenge in mind, anonymity is the strongest weapon in your armoury.
This was my first published novel. To my astonishment (and that of everyone who knows me) it jumped straight into the top ten. It also has the dubious honour of having been pastiched by the wonderful Black Books ( Tempocalypse : the perfect beach book for both men and women – "there's this temp and she can't get a boyfriend, and she only has fifteen hours to save the world…"). If ever a writer experienced mixed feelings, it was me :o} SM
What the press said
"Serena Mackesy's first novel brilliantly captures the grotty and gradual post-student realisation that adult life stinks. Her heroine lives in a shared house where a bunch of ex-studes cling to each-other grimly despite the realisation that, post-college, they have nothing whatsoever in common with each other… It's fresh, sparky, funny and sadly poignant. The stagnant career pond is brought to life with great verve; [the Temp's] dry asides about office life will strike a chord for anyone who has ever had to work as a seemingly invisible temp in a world of uniformed wage slaves. The tale darkens when … [don't want to give away TOO much of the plot]… but what makes the subsequent revenge scenes plausible are the depictions of the individuals concerned." The Big Issue
[the Temp] – as temps often are, she is nameless much of the time – shares a flat with a motley assortment of friends from college. At least she's in work – and can give a wicked description of life seen from the vantage point of the temp. This is a very funny novel about love, friendship, revenge and finding yourself." The Express
"A lively romance of office life." The Guardian
"An acerbic, witty commentary on the twentysomething horror of starting out in the job market." 19
"Based on a successful newspaper column, Mackesy's first novel is a brilliantly observed account of six friends who move into a house in South London after leaving university and try to get to grips with the modern world… not only is The Temp a surprisingly gripping read, it is a brilliant satire of office life. Every week [the Temp] is dispatched to a different part of London to join typing pools, work switchboards and cover for PAs. Mackesy describes in detail the eccentric nuances of the office environment, from the mad things people keep in their desk drawers to the way they cope when the photocopier breaks down… Anyone who works in an office will read this and weep." The Times
On the gaudy red face of it, The Temp… might appear to be [formulaic romance]. But Serena Mackesy's hoot of a narrative is more than a cut above all that… Mackesy's 400-odd pages whip by in a sitting as the Temp contends with jobs across London. Relationships and careers eddy and flow, treachery lurks in the next room, cattiness and concern are in continual flux. It all becomes more moving than expected. As for page 348, it makes for perhaps the biggest gasp since A Kiss before Dying. Here is Bridget Jones firing – or being fired – on every cell of her body. Say no more except – more!" The Independent