Book Review: Careers for Women, by Joanna Scott

This review modified from a review written for Shelf Awareness for Readers.

Careers for Women is a novel ambitious in scope: Spanning the late 1950s to the present day, Joanna Scott (De Potter's Grand Tour) uses the building of the World Trade Center as a lens through which to examine power, feminism, modernity, progress and the power of dreams to shape a life--or many.
"My dears, it goes without saying that there are advantages to being a woman," says Lee Jaffe, head of the public relations department at the Port Authority of New York. It takes Maggie Gleason some time to recognize these advantages, however, as one of Mrs. J's staff (and narrator of Careers for Women). Nor are said advantages immediately evident to Pauline Moreau, a struggling single mother whom Mrs. J ultimately takes under her wing. This unlikely trio of women stands beside the iconic Twin Towers at the center of Scott's compelling novel. The story spirals into tales of manufacturing and environmentalism, displacement and gentrification, men and women, parents and children, secrets and stories--and life and death.

Careers for Women
is as distinctive in its structure as in its detail. Scott varies her writing style across paragraphs, sections and chapters, making the novel read like a series of vignettes. Further, these threads do not follow a linear timeline, but are rather arranged "in accordance with the force of association rather than in obedience to the order of time." This careful approach to an out-of-order storytelling makes it tempting to reread some--or all--of the novel upon completion. One read of this extraordinary and distinctive novel, after all, is never going to be quite enough to appreciate the fullness of its beauty, its cleverness, and its message.


Careers for Women | Joanna Scott | Little, Brown and Company | July 2017 | Buy from an independent bookstore near you

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