White Collar Girl: A Novel. Renee Rosen. Penguin Group (USA). November 2015. 448 pp. ISBN#: 9780451474971.
Jordan Walsh comes from a family of notable journalists but their interest in the business has died with the loss of their son and Jordan’s brother who died in a hit and run accident. Their family has truly been broken by this loss; no one speaks about thoughts or feelings about Jordan’s brother and Jordan is practically invisible as far as attention goes. Now she’s finally getting a break and about to start a job as a journalist who writes about women’s issues in a column known as “White Collar Girl.” But Jordan has far greater aspirations than writing about how to dress, apply makeup, find a husband, etc. She wants to write solid investigative news and is willing to do anything to make that happen. But little is Jordan prepared for the consequences of her choices, both professionally and personally.
Jordan begins to be fed information on political corruption for medical insurance fraud but instead of receiving accolades her notes are given to a male to write the copy on the story. The next time she scoops a huge story about more corruption that causes a severe accident, she plays it differently. Little by little we read about tension-riddled, dangerous events and situations in which Jordan becomes the investigator and the one who writes the story. The Chicago political machine run by Mayor Richard J. Daly and other supporters is rife with crooked politics. And some who consider Jordan friend are really the opposite which she will discover with intensely emotional chagrin.
Romance unexpectedly arises for Jordan but is challenged by competition and familial problems of a fellow journalist working for a rival newspaper. Another friend who attempts to woo Jordan winds up in a precarious situation which he believes Jordan arranged; indeed she is accused of choosing betrayal and success in her job over a growing friendship and possibly more.
Toward the end of the story, Jordan begins to investigate a story that might have to do with the death of her brother. By now her reputation precedes her and so few are ready to whisper secrets that may be catastrophic for professional and personal lives around the office.
White Collar Girl is well-plotted historical fiction (1950s Chicago) that is thrilling to read in Rosen’s easy and well-researched story. The dangers seem vivid and the personal plights seem no less enjoyable, albeit somewhat contrived. The reader gets to know Jordan so well that one feels her joys and pain and is rooting for her through every challenge. It’s a rough road women traveled to obtain equal standing in journalism, as well as other careers, and Rosen depicts what it was in the early days of the struggle for equal treatment at work and respect. Her writing gets better and better! Wonderful story and highly recommended read!