If a reader’s book-judging criteria consists only of a glance at the cover and a cursory read of the first few pages, then one might mistake Renée Rosen’s White Collar Girl as a mash-up of Leave it to Beaver and Mad Men. After all, it begins in 1955 Chicago as Jordan Walsh arrives for her first day as a society writer at the Chicago Tribune. Walsh is replacing the latest in a long line of society writers who had aspirations of becoming the next Nellie Bly, only to realize their false disillusion in a man’s world, and leave to marry said men of the world.
But Rosen doesn’t shelter her protagonist, and Walsh suffers one disappointment after another, in both love and work. And Jordan Walsh does not have June Cleaver as a mother. Instead she comes from pedigree of writers: her mother a poet; her father a novelist; and mother, father, grandfather, brother–journalists all. No, Jordan Walsh does not have June Cleaver as a mother. In fact, dinner guests on any given evening might include Hemingway, Fitzgerald, de Beauvoir and Algren.
That was before her brother was killed. At the time of his death, Eliot Walsh was working on an investigative piece for the Chicago Sun-Times, and Jordan is convinced that his digging around is what got him killed.
Her research into the story he was working on–and ultimately, his death–is the ongoing obsession that hovers in the background throughout the book. But, like our protagonist, the storyline is made of sterner stuff, and Jordan Walsh digs into the seedy world of informants, corruption and cover-up–and cover-up, and cover-up.
At 419 pages, White Collar Girl is not a quick read. In fact, it’s perfect for those who like to dive into period pieces like The Chaperone and The Paris Wife. It has enough grit to keep a reader engaged and turning those pages to the bittersweet end.
White Collar Girl by Renée Rosen (NAL | 9780451474971 | November 3, 2015)