Review: Promising Young Women, by Caroline O’Donoghue

Synopsis: On the day of her 26th birthday, Jane is recently single, adrift at her job, and intrigued by why Clem – her much older, married boss – is singing to her.

Meanwhile her alter-ego, the online agony aunt Jolly Politely, has all the answers. She’s provided thousands of strangers with insightful and occasionally cutting insights to contemporary life’s most vexing questions.

When she and Clem kiss at a party, Jane does not follow the advice she would give to her readers as Jolly: instead she plunges head-first into an affair. One that could jeopardise her friendships, her career and even her life.

Title: Promising Young Women
Author: Caroline O’Donoghue
Publisher: Virago
Pub Date: 7th June 2018
Pages: 320
ISBN: 9780349009902

Rating: 5stars

I read an ARC received from Virago via Netgalley.

“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.”

I will soon be going to the Inaugural Feminist Book Society event at Waterstones and thought I should probably read at least one of the books up for discussion. This is how I acquired (and fell in love with) Promising Young Women.

The story starts with the clichéd 20-something-has-affair-with-older-married-boss… uh oh. But not to worry, what you think is a modern-day Bridget Jones ends up as something far more clever, and much more sinister.

Edgy and gripping, Promising Young Women has a dark Gothic twist that hooks you in page after page. You’ll start to question the narrator, the people around her – even your own experiences in the workplace.

I also loved what the book had to say about workplace sexism, toxic masculinity and the inequalities that underlie our everyday lives. But most importantly, I loved reading about a 20-something heterosexual woman’s attitudes towards her own self-image and how that affects her relationship to the men around her.

If you read this book, prepare yourself for a few sleepless nights – or as many as you need to finish it.

If you read this book and you’re a woman in the workplace, prepare to find at least a few similarities with your own experiences.


If you’re in London on 20th June 18, and you’re interested in going to the Inaugural Feminist Book Society, you can buy tickets here.

Waterstones TCR

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