A Woman of the World

Written by Genie Chipps Henderson
Review by L.K. Mason

In her fiction debut, Genie Chipps Henderson has created a strong and vulnerable heroine, based on famed photographer Margaret Bourke-White and her experiences. The year is 1942, and Kate Goodfellow is determined to be the first female war correspondent allowed into battle to share her stories and photos with readers back in America. Her chance comes in the form of a troopship headed for North Africa. But the ship is torpedoed, and Kate and her fellow passengers are left adrift at sea on a lifeboat. As they await a rescue that may never happen, Kate thinks back on the men she left behind, and how she came to be a famous photographer.

At first, I worried that this character would bore me to tears with her striking beauty and the fact that every man appears to fall in love with her. As it happens, I was not bothered by this in the least because the heady love affairs aren’t the main focus of Kate’s life. This novel is much more than a catalogue of a woman making her way up the career ladder: it relates Kate’s constant struggles to overcome being a woman in a man’s world (in the field of photojournalism, and in the 1920s and 30s in general), and how her ambitions shaped every relationship she had. Her memories of growing up with only her father are particularly deftly told. Kate’s story is in turn gripping, hilarious, poignant, and ultimately touching. Highly recommended.