All or Nothing At All

Written by Patricia Abbott
Review by Ellen Keith

Is it any comfort to know that the “can women have it all?” debate didn’t originate with the current generation? Or is it just depressing? In 1945 at Bowling Green State University, three roommates provide textbook examples of women’s choices in this era. Freshman Liz Chase is wrestling with a marriage proposal from her boyfriend – a senior at Georgetown, about to embark on a diplomatic career, who wants her to go abroad with him. Dottie Cook wants to be an actress but finds herself pregnant by her G.I. Bill boyfriend. Sarah Johnson is the luckiest of the three, her only problem being that she has beauty and brains and must downplay the brains in front of men.

Post WWII America is skillfully evoked, down to the vernacular (“Hubba, hubba!”) and the college curfews, but there’s something stifling about the predestination of these characters. They were almost like a statistic: “One out of three women can have it all.” There were few surprises as it became clear from the beginning what choices these women would make, and I ultimately resented the time it took setting up the smokescreen to convince me otherwise.