I'm a student, so I don't have nearly as much time for leisure reading as I'd like. If I manage to read an entire course book instead of just the assigned chapters, I'll review that here, too.
The third installment in Monica Nolan's Lesbian Career Girls series continues as lighthearted and fondly nostalgic as the previous two, also repeating the crime mystery plot that carried the previous novels. While familiarity with Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary is not necessary for reading this installment, it's more clearly a follow-up to it than Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher, having virtually the same cast of characters with only a few additions and a different focus.
Maxie's tastes range from girl to girl and job to job, with little attention span for any of them beyond novelty. Occasionally I felt she could have tried a little harder to stop the corruption she unveils, find out the danger threatening her, and get to work on time, but it all works out in the end. It's a comforting idea that anybody, even Maxie, can find a perfect career.
Nolan novels are always a joy for me, since they're all about queer women in a way you simply don't see in most fiction. They're also very easy to read and filled with period detail. Even trying very hard, I can only find a couple of things to criticize:
1. Race. Making all Bay City gangs Nordic in origin makes sense since immigrant groups often do form special interest groups which can develop into gangs, but I get the feeling they were an easy target to present as evil immigrants, being whitest of the white and not usually stereotyped as gangland material. It might be a good thing, or it could be a case of intentionally avoiding the topic of racial tensions. Netta's civil rights campaigning happens in another city, and all speaking roles in the novel are left to white characters. I get the feeling Nolan might be easing into a 60s lesbian pseudo-pulp with a black/white pairing, but we're clearly not there yet.
2. I don't think Mänvaarik is a name in any language, and certainly not Finnish. I might have believed Estonian, but I'm guessing that's just because I don't speak Estonian. This was the second time this week that someone in the American-produced media I'm consuming used prejudice against Finns as an example of a silly kind of racism, and I just feel gratified that people remember we exist. Small nations take pride in small things.
3. The habit of using an adjective-job description combination such as "the perky office manager" or "the disappointed recreational aide" to refer to people was annoying at first, but overuse eventually made it amusing. On the whole, though, I find it preferable to use a character's name, unless you specifically want to point out that this person is a secretary and currently distraught.
Gosh, but I just keep finding things to love about the novel. Here are some:
- Maxie's relationship with her mother is hostile and doesn't much improve towards the end, which I find refreshing, awash as I have been in really-truly-secretly-loving family stories; Maxie feels kinship with her mother, but doesn't expect them to ever be friends.
- The tour of the different types publishing businesses from a grassroots newsletter through sleazy "sociological" novels to the high-end of socialite gossip rags was illuminating and exciting.
- Did I mention that it's all about women? It's all about women. All sorts of women. Women are bad guys and good guys and agents and publishers and reporters and gangsters and business owners and lawyers and socialites, and they are the point. No man comes to the rescue, no man is behind it all, no man is the point of the story. Oh, and practically everyone is a lesbian. It is incredibly relaxing.
So, if you're like me, this novel comes highly recommended. If you're not like me, you probably gave up at the description.