Monday, November 2, 2015

White Collar Girl

Title:  White Collar Girl
Author:  Renée Rosen
Publication Information:  NAL. 2015. 448 pages.
ISBN:  045147497X / 978-0451474971

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "It was Voltaire and me."

Favorite Quote:  "But wasn't life just like that? When I think back on all the stupid things I've worried about and fretted over .. silly things that never came to pass or amounted to much - and then the one thing you never expected, that you never saw coming ... blindsides you and changes your life forever."

1950s-1960s Chicago was the hub of the so-called Daley machine, a world of politics, the Mob, corruption, scandal, and cover ups. 1950s-1960s Chicago was also the home of great newspapers like the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune at a time when people still relied on the newspapers for their news. Reporters sought to outdo do each to get the scoop, the big story. 1950s-1960s Chicago was also the time of newspaperMEN.

Into this environment comes Jordan Walsh, young, ambitious, and a woman. She comes from a long line of news people and wants to make her mark as her father did and her brother would have had he not died.

She lands a job with the Tribune but is assigned to the society desk, writing about weddings, celebrity sightings, etiquette and all such things. She wants to report the "real" news - the news that comes from investigative reporting and is the stuff of front page headlines. So, she does both; she writes her pieces as assigned but constantly looks for opportunities to pursue the real news as she sees it.

This takes her into the world of politics and corruption. The book pulls from the history of the times, relating events such as a meat industry scandal, government corruption, election fraud, accidents, an assassination, and more. The history becomes part of the story. Fortunately, the main subject of the book remains Jordan Walsh and her story not the history of the times.

Certain themes carry throughout Jordan's story. One is of a qualified young woman breaking the glass ceiling into a business that has traditionally been a man's world. She is laughed at, ridiculed, pushed aside, and resented in equal measure. She does work, only to have credit given to a man. She refuses to be deterred. She just works that much harder to prove herself. Ultimately, her persistence and qualifications lead to a grudging respect from her colleagues and bosses.

Another theme is that of balancing ambition and career against family and relationships. At times, the people in her life are threatened by her ambition and success. At other times, she unknowingly sacrifices relationships in pursuit of a story. It is unclear whether or not she can find a balance.  The counterpoint is also presented in the character of M, who finds herself at her job for many different reasons, but wants nothing more than to be married and at home raising children. Even for her, it is unclear whether a balance exists. The book does not pass judgement but shows both points of view.

The question of ethics also repeats through the book. How far would you go to get the story and to expose a wrong? How far would you go to protect a journalistic source? How far would you go to protect your own reputation as a journalist? What happens when the journalist's story becomes personal? If the goal is to bring wrongdoing to justice, do the ends justify the means? Again, the book implies no judgement, but shows these dilemmas through the different characters.

In some way, this book is very much a period piece - from the historical events to the manner of dress to peoples' attitudes about race, religion, and gender roles. At the same time, the themes of the book are universal. The struggle of independent women pursuing careers in traditionally male-dominated fields continues even today. The struggle to find work-life balance continues for men and women everywhere. These themes take this book beyond enjoyable historical fiction to a conversation relevant for today's world.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.


  1. Thank you so much for your review.

    I have this book being sent to me by the publisher for review.

    I loved her other books. This one sounds good too.

    Beautiful review.

    Silver's Reviews

    1. This was the first one of Renée Rosen's books I read, and I really enjoyed it. I look forward to hearing what you think. Which of her other books would you recommend?

    2. Both were excellent.

      Dollface and What The Lady Wants are the other two of Ms. Rosen's that I read and loved..

      I hope you get a chance to read them.


    3. Thank you for the recommendations. I will have to look for those. Happy reading!