By: Renee Rosen
Publisher: PENGUIN GROUP
Publication Date: 11/3/2015
My Rating: 5 Stars
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.…
A special thank you to Penguin Group and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
From the author of Dollface and What the Lady Wants, Renee Rosen delivers the well-researched, and captivating WHITE COLLAR GIRL infused with glam, scandal, injustice, and corruption --with human emotions, historical significance, and real life events and people, into the fabric of this exciting, yet tumultuous journalism world of Chicago in the 1950’s.
Historical fiction and journalism fans will devour! Powerful. Well-plotted. Absorbing. The pains and joy. The wins and the losses. The sacrifices. The raw passion, the energy, and adrenaline highs.
Jordan Walsh, twenty-one, a journalism major, ready to prove herself to the world, a daughter of a journalist and a poet. Using her name and background she is ready to tackle the world as a reporter at the Chicago Tribune.
It was time for her to carry on the family tradition. Her father had been a war correspondent during WWII, and before that during the Spanish Civil War, working alongside Ernest Hemingway. Her mother was the daughter of a newspaperman and during the war in Europe she took a job as a reporter at the CityNews Bureau. Her parents were regarding as an intellectual, literary couple.
Jordan wants to honor her brother, Eliot, who had worked at the newly formed Sun-Times. He was named after her mother’s favorite poet, T.S. Eliot. Some part of her motives for becoming a reporter is to dig up dirt on his mysterious death. He believed in her. He was a rising star at the paper when he was killed at age twenty-five years old. A stand- up comic and journalist. A hit and run. Accident, or not?
Now, it is up to her to live out that dream for the both of them. A promise she had made at his funeral two years earlier. At the time of his death he was working on a big story, an expose, and she always wondered if one had something to do with the other. He was hit near the subway station in 1953. She knew she would not find peace until the person who killed her brother, was caught and prosecuted. Her anger is still raw.
However, she soon learns, the men who dominate the city room of the Chicago Tribune have no interest in making room for a female reporter. Instead Jordan is relegated to society news, weddings, reporting on Marilyn Monroe sightings at the Pump Room and interviewing secretaries for the White Collar Girlcolumn.
Walsh finds herself dealing with office politics, sexist comments, in a male dominated work: chauvinist, sexism, the stealing of bylines, injustice, and prejudice—in and out of the office. How dare they treat her like some school girl, stealing her bylines?
She will let nothing stand in her way, using every opportunity, her intelligence and her strong drive and will, to get her story-- and make a mark. She quickly rises from the Chicago Tribune’s society page to the city desk, as she covers breaking news stories and scandals from dirty politics, and crime.
From the main characters to the array of secondary characters, we get both sides of the coin from the strong, aggressive, and driven, to the M, a woman of the 50s, supporting herself, while looking for a husband and family. Everyone has a path to their ultimate goal, and many go about it a different way.
Covering a ten year period, a female reporter in a man’s world-- fighting against all odds in a time, when woman were frowned upon for having a marriage, family, and a career. The price of ambition. An unforgettable story of an ambitious woman’s struggle to break into the male-dominated newspaper world of the 50s—bringing Chicago alive.
At the heart, an underlying story of her brother’s murder, and reopening the investigation. Justice. In a time when newspapers played a huge role in the lives of millions of Americans, from news stories to political scandals. The world counted on the news media to uncover the truth. The watchdog, reporting the down and dirty of society. The judges, politicians, lawyers, and police officers, to the corporate giants.
Jordan has people in her life, some good and some bad. Conflicting emotions, she falls in love with fellow journalist—Jack Casey, threatened by her professional accomplishments. Scott Trevor was the love of Jordan’s life, however, she had had choose between a story and her loyalty in Operation K. Marty Sinclair, the Pulitzer Prize journalist is Jordan’s hero at the beginning of the novel; however, as the story progresses he falls from grace.
In the Author’s Note (Outstanding)… she addresses history and scandals covered in the column, White Collar Girl. Many powerful stories, controversies, fraud, corruption, cover-ups, arrests, corrupt judicial system, robbery sprees, politicians, food administration, and others rocking Chicago and the nation, were covered from Operation Greylord, the horsemeat scandal, to the Kennedy/Nixon election.
Love the title, the story, and the stunning cover— White Collar Girl, the name of the actual column written by Ruth McKay, which ran in the Chicago Tribune during the 40s and 50s. Enhancing your overall experience of the novel, blending fact and fiction--- the author uses main characters, editors, reporters of fictional nature, infused with many events they covered in the White Collar Girl, based on actual news stories and political scandals.
An ongoing theme, of course is women in the workplace, and the challenges faced on a daily basis. In some areas of the country, and specific industries, there is still a lingering problem even in today’s society, comparable to the 1950s, particularly in the "good ole' boys" South. However, many more advantages in today’s world.
I can relate, growing up in the 50s and 60s, even in the South, my mother was a strong career woman, (against a lot of odds), and at one point as a child, my mom was the main bread-winner in the family, when my father was temporarily laid off. She continued to work, long after my dad who took early retirement.
If you grew up in the 50s and 60s, you will enjoy revisiting all the fun filled times and places, such as sitting at the Woolworth’s counter (where my aunt took me so she could flirt with the men). I recall as only yesterday, in the 6th grade school classroom, the day Kennedy was shot; when the teacher delivered the announcement with tear stained eyes.
Online versus Print:
The journalism and media world has drastically changed over the years due to the digital age, where the dirty laundry is out there, due to social media, and camera cell phones, making it easy to capture videos and on the scene scandals. Also the newspapers play less of a role as a watchdog. As we compare the former world of print news media, versus today’s social world, the author, proposes some thought-provoking discussion questions:
Are we less informed about local, national and world events due to the decline of newspapers, or are we better informed due to the immediacy of social media, Twitter, web, and cable news?
Each person will have an individual opinion; however, for me, in today’s world, it is almost too over whelming. Overkill. You receive so many tweets, news feeds, you only hit highlights—everyone is on a fast paced life schedule. Whereas in the older days of print, you may spend more quality time reading an article at your leisure, versus hundreds of postings coming at you at once.
I loved Jordan’s tenacity, and at times confronted with moral issues, bending the law, to get a story—in order to expose the truth, using those opportunities to her advantage. Rosen’s passion and attention to details, reflective through each page --from page one to the epilogue. She places you in the setting, as you feel the vibrant energy of the newsroom.
Upcoming Book: The Blues and Chess Records
Bringing us to Rosen’s next book, all about The Blues and Chess Records, and famous artists Chicago put on the map; Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Etta James.
“There’s the pretty marble Chicago, there’s the gritty Chicago. I like being right here so I can see it, touch it, feel it,” says the author.
Based on the true story of Chess Records and the birth of the Blues, as told through the eyes of a young immigrant woman of Jewish Polish descent who helped bring the blues sound to Chicago and the world, again to NAL, in a two-book deal, for publication in Fall 2016,
Now this will be a book, not to be missed. Cannot wait to see the cover reveal, and read this one!
Buy the Book
About the Author
As clichéd as it sounds, Renée is a former advertising copywriter who always had a novel in her desk drawer. When she saw the chance to make the leap from writing ad copy to fiction, she jumped at it. A confirmed history and book nerd, Renée loves all things old, all things Chicago and all things written.
A graduate of American University in D.C., Renée has contributed to many magazines and newspapers, including Chicago Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, Complete Woman, DAME, Publisher’s Weekly and several other now sadly defunct publications. She is the bestselling author of What The Lady Wants: A Novel of Marshall Field and the Gilded Age, Dollface: A Novel of the Roaring Twenties and Every Crooked Pot. Her forthcoming novel, White Collar Girl will be published November 3, 2015 from Penguin Random House. She lives in Chicago where she is currently working on a new novel about the Chicago blues and Chess Records coming from Penguin/Berkley fall 2016. Website Twitter