Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Review: White Collar Girl by Renee Rosen
The latest novel from the bestselling author of Dollface and What the Lady Wants takes us deep into the tumultuous world of 1950s Chicago where a female journalist struggles with the heavy price of ambition...
Every second of every day, something is happening. There’s a story out there buried in the muck, and Jordan Walsh, coming from a family of esteemed reporters, wants to be the one to dig it up. But it’s 1955, and the men who dominate the city room of the Chicago Tribune have no interest in making room for a female cub reporter. Instead Jordan is relegated to society news, reporting on Marilyn Monroe sightings at the Pump Room and interviewing secretaries for the White Collar Girl column.
Even with her journalistic legacy and connections to luminaries like Mike Royko, Nelson Algren, and Ernest Hemingway, Jordan struggles to be taken seriously. Of course, that all changes the moment she establishes a secret source inside Mayor Daley’s office and gets her hands on some confidential information. Now careers and lives are hanging on Jordan’s every word. But if she succeeds in landing her stories on the front page, there’s no guarantee she’ll remain above the fold. ~ Goodreads
Source: e-arc provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
I've been wanting to read outside my comfort zone (typically I read YA, Adult romance) recently so I gave White Collar Girl a try, which is more literary, historical fiction with a touch of romance(s).
White Collar Girl started out strong. Rosen paints a very vivid picture of a 50's era newsroom. I could almost hear the typewriter keys clacking, phones ringing, papers shuffling and smell the smoky air.
Jordan is a fascinating character. She's a woman with the brains and ambition to be a hard news reporter. She comes from a family of respected writers and reporters. While she's not looking to use those connections to get ahead, she thought it would lend her an air of credibility in the male dominated news rooms. Instead she's assigned to the society pages to cover weddings and the like.
She encounters sexism, backstabbing and jealousies along the way all while staying determined to find the story that will help her break out and be taken seriously.
I think once I got past the initial introduction to the newsroom and characters the book falters a bit as Jordan starts finding stories to investigate. This should be the most interesting part. Instead I never found Jordan's adventures all that compelling. She just moves from story to story without much fanfare. They may start out with a hint of danger but nothing really comes of it.
As much as I loved Jordan's determination, she ultimately falls flat as a character. Her family has suffered a horrible loss and they deal with it by not speaking about it. She's been taught by her family to keep her feelings locked up tight. And while I could empathize with her - it doesn't make for all that interesting reading when she just walks walks away whenever a conversation or her relationships get tough.
There is a lot of famous name dropping - Ernest Hemingway, Eppie Lederer, Marilyn Monroe to name a few. Some of it works and adds authenticity to the era but most of the time it felt awkward and forced. Add in several unnecessary scenes that drag the story to a complete halt - bowling night, drinks after work, co-workers side projects and personal lives - and the second half meandered too much.
If Jordan had worked a few bigger stories rather than so many smaller ones the tension could have been ratcheted up and this would have been a real page turner.
This could have been a case of White Collar Girl not being the right fit for me. I'm the first to admit this is not my typical read.
I think if you're a fan of Mad Men, Chicago history/politics and definitely if you like a complex female lead struggling through being a career woman in the 50's, both personally and professionally - this might be the book for you.