Monday, February 01, 2016

White Collar Girl: A Book Review

A few pages in to WHITE COLLAR GIRL and I was wondering if author Renee Rosen was a newspaper reporter. Not because her depiction of the Chicago Tribune offices seemed so real, but because she exhibited a reporter's tendency to describe things in minute detail. Good for an article in the newspaper, perhaps, but a little goes a long way in a novel.

The novel is set in the 1950s, and features a young Jordan Walsh making her way in a male-dominated profession. The cub reporter longs for a seat at the City Desk, a club as exclusive as Berghoff's men-only bar. Which gets a mention in the book, by the way. All kinds of things get mentioned in the book.

In general, the novel is more a series of events than a flowing narrative. Jordan puts in her time on the society pages while pondering what really happened to her brother, who was killed in a hit-and-run accident. Or was he on to a hot story and got himself killed for poking around a potential scandal?

Her drive to succeed spoils romantic relationships as she moves up the ladder, hoisted along by a secret source in high places feeding her info for further investigation. It makes for an entertaining read, but if you are familiar with Chicago history and politics, you might become annoyed at Ms. Rosen's decision to use modern-day scandals and mingle them in with events that actually happened in the 1950s. It might almost seem to be too much scandal in too short a time, with corrupt judges following corrupt meat inspectors and corrupt cops.

For a light weekend read, WHITE COLLAR GIRL will provide enough entertainment. The author does a good job of immersing her readers into the era, taking things a little too far by dropping addresses as well as names. She did her research on Chicago of the 1950s, to be sure, but it isn't necessary to use all of it to that extent.

Overall, the novel is worth reading, particularly if you can forget what you know about Chicago and go along for the ride. We often forget how tough a woman had to be sixty years ago to make it in business, and it can be enlightening to inhabit that world for a few hours to refresh memories and appreciate what our mothers and grandmothers had to endure.

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