This is a brilliant and caustic cautionary tale from one of Britain's best-loved and most controversial writers. Hattie and Martyn are a decent, hard-working, ecologically-minded young couple - partners with a new baby, bickering over whether they should get married or not and how to arrange their lives in a morally sustainable way. Hattie has given up work to look after baby Kitty, but she is, frankly, bored by domesticity. They meet Agnieszka, a Polish domestic paragon who's married to a bus driver back home and is sending money back to her old mother and sister. Morally responsible couple that they are, Martyn and Hattie take pity and invite her to live with them. Hattie eventually succumbs to temptation and asks Agnieszka to baby-sit, and soon she's back at full-time work. In fact, life is pretty much as it was before the baby came along, except the house is cleaner and better organized, and she's galloping ahead in her career. Martyn is thrilled and wants a marriage ceremony, but Hattie refuses: life is perfect as it is, thanks to the existence of Agnieszka, who is modest, docile, prepared to work for a pittance, and not even too pretty for comfort.
First published 2005.