Books

The Confused Guinea Pig – Paulien Cornelisse

My book review of ‘The Confused Guinea Pig’ written by Paulien Cornelisse

In my view

The story follows a guinea pig with a nine to five office job in marketing and communications at a company. It is not known which (fictional) company, that detail is left out, but it is also not needed to know. Such as a few other details that you sometimes expect but are left out. A ‘guinea pig’ in Dutch is ‘cavia’ and that is also the name of the main character – how cliché – ‘Cavia’. But cliché or not, it is funny and used perfectly for the imagination.

To tell a bit about the story but not spoiling the real humor in this book, I’ll give you a few questions to think about. Can you imagine this?
Being a guinea pig, working in an office from nine till five (or earlier or later) and having all those work situations that can occur never, once or more in your life. You feel like an outsider because you’re a guinea pig and your colleagues are just normal humans. Each with his/her own personal problems and a handbook for communications and collegiality.
Personally I can not exactly relate to them, but I can imagine it if my work experience up till so far would have been a bit different. And I’m a twenty-something so I am quite young in work experiences.

An example I think many of you can relate to: You’re on your way to the office and it’s a rainy day… a full shower… and you appear soaked wet and with peaky hair that is not optimal fixable in the bathroom to be back to the state the moment you left home. Can you imagine if you were a guinea pig?

And how to you get through all those situations and moments and easy till tough conversations? From uncomfortable talks, people to deal with, employee cuts due to a financial crisis to being self-employed and following your heart. Well, the guinea pig probably has experienced a few of those I just mentioned and you can read how she deals with it all. In a really relaxing and humorous way!

The book is quite popular in The Netherlands and if you work in an office from nine till five it is definitely a book you should read.

Style

The story is written in an original style: the book consists of many little chapters that read like columns. Each chapter has a title consisting of one or two words that summarizes the point of view of the column or scene (I prefer to name it a column onwards). Each column has a length of one to two pages in A5 format. Which is similar to a few other column books I have read. But this is a contemporary fiction book. All columns relate to each other and therefore it reads as a story from beginning till end. It does have an open end though. I don’t know what happens next and I’m curious for if there will be a sequel.

The spelling and grammar are great, I discovered no (printing) errors. And the pace at which you can read this book is medium to quick. You can read a few bits and then overthink those imaginary situations or you can read it in one sit of approximately three hours if you read ~1-1,25 pages a minute.

Characters

The main character is the guinea pig Cavia. You get to know her a bit but unnecessary details for the goal of the story are left out. The side characters, which are her colleagues at the office and beyond, are a bit shallow. You get to know them by their behaviour, characteristics and some quirks. Most of all you get to know the characters in a way of how they are. Not where they live, what they possess, do in their free time usually, what they like personally etcetera. So those colleagues are…literally only colleagues: superficial. But they are good superficial characters.

The only thing I did not like: mailing so much.
It’s my very personal opinion: Tiny pieces of conversations…
Nowadays we have Microsoft Teams and Slack and Google Meet etcetera… for professional/formative conversations and WhatsApp for the informal/casual conversations. Or have a call or text or go for a walk. But no mailings with your workmail like that. I love to keep work and my private life, or questions about a private life, separate. And super short texts that are not that important to remember/small to do and done: preferably in a chat form in one of the mentioned applications. Because eventually it will disappear from immediate view. Being scrolled-up by new messages or disappear after a couple of weeks or months. Being archived and non-accessible anymore. Tidying up! Love that. Mailings don’t disappear like that, stay on a server, are re-retrievable, need to be manually deleted because you don’t want to archive/delete the important conversations or summaries about longer-taking-projects you work on etcetera. And it pollutes you searchterms and results in your mailings.
So in the office, tiny pieces of conversations that don’t really relate to a task or project or other important information…. please no mailings, just talk.

Conclusion:

It’s a very (Dutch) humorous book and you can a bit relate to all the experiences and feelings the guinea pig Cavia goes through during a year. It is not stated it covers a year… but you can imagine. It’s original, contemporary fiction, full of blue Monday’s and extraordinary how those topics covered in small chapters and with a good divided amount of humour, captures it all: ordinary life in the nine till five office with extraordinary happenings. It made me laugh out loud several times.

It is currently in a few languages published, but not in English and the German title has an interesting subtitle (freely translated): Love, live and suffer at the office.

A video where the author tells a bit about her book

Book Facts:

Title: The Confused Guinea Pig [EN]
Author: Paulien Cornelisse
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Humour
ISBN: 9789082430202
Publisher: Sander Pinkse Boekproductie
Year 1st edition & read edition: 2016
Year read: 2022
Original title & language: De Verwarde Cavia [NL]
Read language: Dutch
Pages: 190
Rating: 4 / 5 stars

I hope you like the book too. It is worth to read it! I am not telling about the story too much, you have to read the book yourself and make your own opinion.

Enjoy reading!

Loves from Sophie

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