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Jane Peters is twenty-six and newly single after getting out of a comfortable but unexciting long-term relationship. Her advertising agency job isn’t exactly scintillating but it pays the rent, more or less. And there’s a cute colleague she’s had her eye on for a while. Jane’s secret side hobby as an online agony aunt gives her an outlet for her snark and provides a nice ego boost whenever her advice goes viral.
Irish writer Caroline O’Donoghue’s debut novel begins as an enjoyable, relatable read about a young woman fresh from a break-up, plodding away at her mediocre corporate job. Fun, light, and rather formulaic you’re thinking. But things take a surprisingly dark turn: Bridget Jones’s Diary this is not. After a drunken encounter with her charismatic boss at a work party, Jane finds herself quickly out of her depth and struggling to maintain a hold on reality.
In the #MeToo era, where the news is (rightly) full of horrendous stories about the likes of Harvey Weinstein and the Old Boys Club of some local law firms, this is an exceptionally timely novel. Reminiscent of Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter, this is a story about power and sex, and gender politics in the workplace.
‘Our company is teeming with women under thirty, and men approaching or over fifty. That is how the food chain works. Dozens of attractive young women do the grunt work for a handful of men, and the women get filtered out by motherhood. It’s the corporate version of natural selection.’
This novel is dark and cuttingly funny. That I, a reasonably busy working parent, made time to read this book over just two days is testament to how compelling a story it was. This is a book that you will want to recommend to your bookclub, just so that you have friends to discuss it with afterwards.
Review by Tiffany Matsis
Promising Young Women
by Caroline O’Donoghue
Published by Little, Brown