Fairly unusually for career books, this is actually a good novel in its own right. For its time, of course, that time being 1956. The Lang family is definitely of the well-educated middle class. Mr Lang, a Scottish engineer (and thus, as the author makes implicitly clear, a man to be trusted, respected and relied upon), his wife Jenny and their two unmarried children, Margaret and her younger brother Tony, have a pleasant life in a loving and safe home. The family is fleshed out enough that we know that although Mr Lang is the head of the household, he relies on his wife (who, naturally, doesn’t work outside the home) and they share family plans and decisions. Tony is a good musician but doesn’t want to pursue that professionally. He hopes to go into engineering like his father, although as the novel moves on and does his National Service in the RAF, his thoughts begin to change.
We meet Margaret on her return from two interviews at local fashion stores. Both have offered her a job and she must decide which to accept overnight. Her father who is in management helps her to weigh up the options but leaves her to make her own decision. And it’s really only as Margaret does so that we get bogged down in salaries, commission and conditions. Although we do learn along with Margaret about being a successful sales assistant and how to gain promotion, we come by the information fairly naturally. Margaret is conscientious and hard-working. She also has the example of her aunt who is a fashion buyer for a large Canadian store. Perhaps inevitably she is somewhat naive but she is prepared to learn and gradually she works her way up, although, in spite of the title, she hasn’t made it to Buyer by the end of the book.
This is one of the Mary Dunn Career Novels published by Chatto and Windus and like others of their ilk this series was designed to show that girls could do anything they wanted; that the world of work was an ever-widening one. In that sense they are modern and forward-looking. But they still leave the impression that the best thing a girl could do was to get married. So there’s almost always a love interest in these books and here it’s no different. But I had to laugh as I read because the romance is dealt with almost in its entirety in the the last two pages which makes me think that Mary Delane really couldn’t be bothered with writing a love story.