Sarah’s Snippets Book Review: The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips

August 11, 2015 Fiction 25

The Beautiful Bureaucrat, Helen PhillipsFiction
Released August 11, 2015
192 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: eGalley provided by the publisher via NetGalley

Headline

Helen Phillips’ debut novel is a tiny ball of weirdness…reminiscent of a demented “Office Space”…that had me on the edge of my seat. It’s going on my Book Club Recommendations, Page Turners, and Great Books Under 300 Pages lists.

Plot Summary

When Josephine moves to a new city with her husband and takes a job at a data processing facility, strange things begin to happen, leading her to further investigate the company she works for.

Why I Read It

I first saw this book at BEA (Book Expo America) and quickly started hearing glowing chatter about it on Twitter from other bloggers.

What I Liked Loved

  • I was on the edge of my seat virtually the entire time I was reading. I just had to know…what the heck is going on here?! The entire book feels like a riddle that the reader needs to unravel. And, once the the riddle of Josephine’s company has been solved, you’re left with much broader questions to ponder. Is this some huge metaphor? What is Josephine’s company’s place in the broader world? What does it all MEAN?! All this would make for a great book club discussion.
  • There were multiple moments where I said, “oh my god”…including when I thought the story was wrapping up, but Phillips turned out not to be done with me yet.
  • This book has a futuristic, dream-like quality. It’s almost as if Josephine, instead of living her real life, has stepped into an alternate reality.
  • There is a character named Trishiffany…quite possibly the best character name I’ve ever seen!
  • Phillips was masterful in portraying how Josephine begins to mentally unravel. Numbers (the data Josephine is responsible for processing) are becoming seductive and gradually beginning to take over her brain, almost hypnotizing her. And, she plays with words, sometimes using anagrams, and sometimes just seeing different combinations than what’s actually there.

What I Didn’t Like

  • I’m being intentionally vague here, but there is one particular detail in Josephine’s investigation of her company that didn’t make sense to me. She figured out the first critical piece to the puzzle based on information that I thought left a gaping hole for another possibility that she didn’t consider. Did I miss something? I’d love to discuss this offline with anyone who has already read it!

A Defining Quote

Yet even so, she carried the Database around inside her; it floated in her brain like a net for catching and killing any glistening idea that came along. Sitting on a blanket on the floor, looking deep into the heart of the cheap white wine in the plastic cup, she confessed to Joseph: “I’m becoming a bureaucrat.”

Good for People Who Like…

Books that make you think, mind games, page turners, a bit of creepiness, suspense

Other Books You May Like

Nope, this category is not happening this time around…I have never read another book remotely like this one. And, that’s kind of awesome.

25 Responses to “Sarah’s Snippets Book Review: The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips”

  1. Diane

    I do want to read this one and just got a company this week. I loved how you just shared enough info to pull us in. Thanks Sarah.

  2. Shannon @ River City Reading

    I think you’re right on the recommendation front, there aren’t many books that are like this (though some Atwood definitely skews in this direction). We’re talking about this in The Socratic Salon at the end of the month, so I’m curious about what you’re spoiler bit of info is!

    • admin

      Oooh – now I really want to try Atwood! Looking forward to the SS discussion…I’ll definitely throw my question out there!

  3. Tara @ Running 'N' Reading

    GAH! I’m so excited to read this one!! I’m going to start it today, after work; just finished Everybody Rise this morning and I’m really excited about getting to The Beautiful Bureaucrat in time to discuss on The Socratic Salon. Something about your description got me thinking about one of the most bizarre collections of stories I’ve ever read (Tenth of December by George Saunders), mostly because of this “Database” and the fact that it sort of takes over; I can’t wait to find out more!!

    • admin

      This is probably a great (umm…or super creepy) book to start right after work!! Especially if your job involves computers (which I think it does based on your pics)! I’ve heard of Tenth of December, but haven’t read it…will have to check it out!
      Looking forward to your review of Everybody Rise…I think I’ve moved on from it, but am still curious!

  4. Kay

    OK, you had me at defies description and the numbers thing. I love numbers. And Trishiffany?? Seriously? LOL LOL

    • admin

      I know, right?! I don’t think I’ve seen a better name…and the reason for it is her parents couldn’t decide b/w Trisha and Tiffany..ha!

    • admin

      Ha- yep…I almost feel like I had nothing else to add to the conversation! Lucky for you, it’s a super quick read!

  5. Trish

    I can’t ignore this one any longer!! So much praise for this little book. Glad you loved it…in a totally weird way. 🙂

    • admin

      It’s so amazing and different from anything else I’ve read – definitely give it a shot! You’ll know in the first few pages if it isn’t for you…I think 🙂

  6. Allison @ The Book Wheel

    You know, I hadn’t heard of this book until today and I’ve come across it several times in one day. I hated Office Space, so this might not be the book for me, but I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    • admin

      I’d give it a shot…it’s so good and there’s definitely WAY more to it than Office Space. That’s just scratching the surface. You’ll probably know in the first few pages if it’s for you or not. But, it may very well not be for you and that’s fine!

  7. Marisa @ The Daily Dosage

    Great review! I loved it for the same reasons and then loved it for reasons I can’t explain! 🙂 It was just one of those books that I was pleasantly confused by at times. And like you, there is nothing really to compare it to. Maybe a bit Atwood but nothing else. Great quote too!

    • admin

      Thank you! I haven’t read Atwood (yes, I’m embarrassed and plan to read The Handmaid’s Tale at some point relatively soon), but I’d also heard some comparisons to Murakami, which I have read. But, I didn’t really see Murakami while I was reading, but can kind of see it looking back on it (now that someone else mentioned it).

  1. Books that Make Perfect Holiday Gifts 2015 | Sarah's Book Shelves

    […] The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips Fiction (Released August 11, 2015) 192 Pages Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon Summary: When Josephine moves to a new city with her husband and takes a job at a data processing facility, strange things begin to happen, leading her to further investigate the company she works for. My Thoughts: Helen Phillips’ debut novel is a tiny ball of weirdness…reminiscent of a demented “Office Space”…that had me on the edge of my seat. I just had to know…what the heck is going on here?! The entire book feels like a riddle that the reader needs to unravel. And, once the the riddle of Josephine’s company has been solved, you’re left with much broader questions to ponder. Continue Reading… […]

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