Careers for Women: A Novel

Ugh, this cover. I was alerted to this book by way of my Virginia Woolf listserve, wherein a professor mentioned an interview that Scott had given, saying that she got the title of her novel from Woolf: “I learned that Virginia Woolf once planned a book, and she called it Professions for Women. She wanted to think just about this. She had given a talk to a
group of women who were working, and she was thinking about how the identity of women would change as gender equality–she said something about how we can’t really know what women can do until they have access to every field available, open to human skill. She never wrote that book, Professions for Women. So in some ways I wanted to pick up where she left off, if that’s possible, if that’s allowed.”

This was a great book, until it went off the rails as so many tightly-wound, perfectly-crafted beginnings of books go wrong. The book is based primarily on Lee K. Jaffe, the woman who envisioned the Twin Towers, a real person whose life is embellished by Scott. There’s also a disaster at an upstate NY aluminum plant (resulting in the death of the plant director and his wife, hmm), an illegitimate child born to a teenager who escapes to NYC who ends up blackmailing the father (that aluminum plant director), plus the daily work of the NY  Port Authority taking over blocks of downtown Manhattan in order to put up those damn towers. The towers loom over everything, their mere mention a menace, you know that they tumble.

The book starts to fall apart for me when the narrator (Maggie?), who is taking care of the disabled child Sonia (her mother missing, murdered, the blackmailer), refuses to tell the doctor she was dating why she can’t see him (b/c she’s now taking care of this kid). It makes little sense. I think I started to skim at this point. Completely off the rails was the solving of the mystery of what happened at the aluminum plant—the cheated-on wife throws her life away with her husband’s to save him? Again, makes no sense.